16 ways to save money

It’s crunch time this week in Oberursel, as first the finance committee and then the town council meet to approve the budget for 2013a budget with a deficit.

Over the past few weeks, the politicians in the town have been challenged to come up with ideas on how to save money as part of the “Haushaltssicherungskonzept” (the concept to balance the books), and there have also been discussions going on both on the town’s website and in Facebook.  These can have far-reaching consequences for the coming years in the town, as some savings may not be possible straight away.

So what suggestions did the politicians come up with?  Well yesterday the OBG – a local political group – put forward their suggestions, and in total they are proposing 26 amendments to the budgets, which I have grouped together here in 16 different points.

They are:

1. The tax for land owners (“Grundsteuer B”) should not be increased gradually, but go straight to 375% in 2014 and stay at that level, rather than smaller increases (from 300% to 350%, 400%, and 450%) every two years.  This would bring in more money faster, but leave things at a lower rate for longer.

2. Parents of children who require after-school care should pay more towards it once the children are older.  It is suggested that parents of children at secondary school should cover 100% of these costs.

3. Dog tax (“Hundesteuer”) should be increased by more than is planned.  Currently owners pay €54 for the first dog, €78 for the second and €96 for the third.  The OBG proposes €84 for the first, €144 for the second and €144 for the third, but with two new exceptions.  Dangerous dogs would be taxed at €600 (similar costs exist in other towns), and people that take in abandoned dogs from the “Tierheim” would be exempt for the first two years.

This would bring in an addition €52,000 per year, helping to cover the costs of the dog inspectors who check up on the dangerous dogs (€36,000), and the costs of the dog toilets in the town (€53,000).

4. Introduce a second home tax.  People who own a flat or house in Oberursel but who do not live here would have to pay a set amount of tax per year, some of whom might see it as an incentive to make the town their normal place of residence.  This would bring in an additional €166,000 per year.

5. Increase the agricultural land tax (“Grundsteuer A”) to 375%.

6. Scrap the plans to extend the car park at the Taunus Information Centre, on the grounds that the Park&Ride car park at the end of the U3 is underused.

7. Install speed cameras in the town at accident blackspots instead of putting up speed traps there on a regular basis.  The mobile speed traps could there be used in other areas such as near schools.

8. Reduce the personnel costs for the mobile library by using volunteer staff instead of full-time library staff.

9. Reduce the amount of money given to the culture department (KSfO) and use some of it to support other organisations instead.

10. Reduce the amount of money that gets spent on the open-air theatre (“Theater im Park”), which currently incurs costs of €44,000 for full-time town hall staff.  Instead, the OBG suggests that more of the organisational work could be done by volunteers.

11. Scrap the “Kulturbühne” (culture stage) event, and again use some of the money to support clubs in the town with their events.  The event this year, which does not charge entry, costs €39,800 to stage and had 700 visitors.

12. Reduce the costs of the wine festival, which has a planned budget of €74,000.

13. Reduce the amount spent on town twinning.  Although there is a volunteer organisation for the town twinning, €88,100 is set aside for personnel costs in this area next year – more than the actual costs of any travel to and from the towns or other costs such as official gifts.

14. Reduce the amount spent on the Christmas markets, especially those in the suburbs of the town (Bommersheim, Stierstadt, Weißkirchen, Oberstedten).

15. Reduce the amount spent on the parental advice centre (“Elternberatung”), which currently costs €258,800 and even next year is budgeted at €154,940, on the basis that the “Kreis” level of government also offers this service, as do volunteer organisations in the town such as “Caritas”.

16. Reduce the amount that is spent on looking after the parks and green areas of the town.

The OBG says that this combination of tax increases and cost savings would see the town €358,000 better off this year and around €1 million in future years, in addition the savings that the town’s executive are proposing.  The only problem being, that they are in opposition and only hold 7 of the 45 seats on the town council.

So what about the other parties?  Well, they either did not hold press conferences or I did not get invited.  Apparently the FDP are planning 3 amendments and the coalition of CDU/SPD/Green party are proposing 23.  We shall see which of them get carried this evening and at Thursday’s council meeting.

What do you think?  Which savings would you be prepared to accept?  Leave a comment and let me know… but hurry, there’s only three days to go!

About Graham Tappenden

Graham Tappenden is a British ex-pat who first came to Oberursel in 1993 and returned with his family to live there in 2003. He has been writing for AllThingsGerman.net since 2006. When not writing blog posts or freelancing for the Oberurseler Woche he works as a self-employed IT consultant solving computer problems and designing websites. In 2016 he gained German citizenship.

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