Commissioners shouldn't cry wolf

Moffat County commissioners lately are sounding like the boy who cried wolf.

As commissioners campaigned for Referendum 1A, they painted a harsh financial picture for the county if the measure failed.

If it passed, the referendum would have, for five years, exempted the county from revenue limits imposed by a law from 1913. The law caps county revenues at 5.5 percent growth from one year to the next. Commissioners said the county needed the extra revenue so services could keep pace with growth.

Commissioners warned that if the referendum didn't pass, county residents could count on reductions in snowplowing, road maintenance and pest control services.

More dramatically, commissioners told taxpayers that rejection of the referendum would force the county to sell Shadow Mountain Clubhouse, a taxpayer-owned community center.

On Nov. 1, voters shot down the measure. That's not surprising. Moffat County, for better or worse, is known for a loud and stubborn anti-tax contingent.

But what is surprising is the apparent back-pedaling by commissioners after the election.

Last week, commissioners said they would try to restructure the county's Parks and Recreation budget to keep Shadow Mountain open.

Commissioners also said they could seek grants for capital projects.

Although that's all fine and good, commissioners are making it difficult for 1A opponents to keep from gloating. Referendum opponents asserted, accurately or not, that the money was there all along.

If grants and creative budgeting were always an option, commissioners should have said so before the election. Commissioners should have exhausted those options before soliciting support by crying that Shadow Mountain would close.

We supported 1A and still believe that a community can't continue to demand services while shooting down every mechanism to fund them. Some groups are so rigidly anti-tax, they seem to forget that they're users of county services. They even reject measures, such as 1A, that aren't tax increases.

But by waffling on Shadow Mountain, commissioners are sending the wrong message and one that undermines future efforts to pay for county services.

We still believe commissioners and the county are in a financial bind. After all, commissioners are keeping some election promises by reducing services.

But we don't support empty election threats.

The county still must fix its budget problem. Creative financing and one-time grants are only Band-Aids. It's likely that a new group of commissioners will ask voters to exempt it from revenue restrictions.

If commissioners don't stick to their guns, that's going to be a tough sell.

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