Our view: Funding inaction

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Local politicians are afraid.

The hovering specter of an energy bust is driving them into hiding our tax money.

The city and county are stockpiling millions of dollars for when the energy companies leave. County officials say they have to, that 30 big companies make up 80 percent of the tax revenue, and if one left, we would need a large reserve to keep Moffat County afloat.

We say things change. Just like Wal-Mart, Walgreens and Sonic coming to town, other businesses will, too.

But not without investment.

The city and county should invest at least some of their reserves back into the local economy.

The city should be annexing property and building infrastructure such as roads and utilities.

Late last year, a hotel developer said he wanted to build an apartment complex in Craig. Problem was, the city had not developed any land with road access and utilities for would-be developers to jump on.

Because of the city's slow-motion approach, it proved too expensive for this developer to build apartments. Considering the labor and housing shortage currently capping economic growth, that's a big problem.

The county, also indulging in a slow-motion pace, is working toward a 40-percent reserve, meaning it is taking nearly half its expenditure budget out of public projects and storing the money in private banks.

This editorial board does not condemn balancing the budget, but it goes both ways. Overspending can be just as deadly to a community as under-spending.

It's gut-check time.

Our ranching and agriculture history is something this community - and this board - will not forget.

However, a look at the industries with the largest payrolls makes it hard to see Craig and Moffat County just as a ranching and agriculture community.

Energy companies and - despite our conservative local politicians - government are the largest employers.

In some ways, this is great, and great in ways other parts of the country would be jealous about. Although free trade agreements are sending other communities' blue-collar jobs overseas, the local middle class is thriving thanks in large part to high-paying jobs at the coal mines.

Most people around town probably don't want high-paying, blue-collar jobs to disappear, and that makes this decision time.

The arrivals of Wal-Mart, Walgreens and Sonic mean Craig is entering something of a revolution in industry.

It might be time for this community to decide if it wants to jump in with both feet, or, as one member of this board said, if we do what we've always done, we're going to get what we already have.

Don't think we're attacking ranchers and farmers. We believe it is important for those groups to be successful.

But ask yourself if you're satisfied with the clothing stores around Craig or the restaurants. Or the choices you have for buying televisions and DVD players.

Growth benefits everyone. Competition benefits consumers, and bringing more people in the area opens up markets for business.

For the community to jump in with both feet, residents have little to do. In fact, they already did a lot when they passed the Moffat County School District and The Memorial Hospital tax bonds last November.

If the community wants growth and new business, it needs to make sure its government is on board.

Or find a new one.

It takes money to make money, and even if the county saves $30 million during the next 10 years, that's only going to allow us to limp along for another few if the bust comes. It's going to leave us wishing for another easy solution, like the current energy boom.

This board thinks wishing for another energy boom is more deluded than thinking the current one will last forever.

If our government does not invest in this community, and try to bring in new industries and try to expand the industries we already have, then our government is setting this community up for a big fall.

In short, without investment, our government is preparing this community to fail.

The cold truth of transition periods is they usually leave some people behind.

The community has a decision to make. We can all be left behind and reelect the same ideas and get what we got.

Or, we can leave those ideas behind.

Comments

taxslave 6 years, 9 months ago

I totally do not agree with this. I praise our government for stashing bucks....we've been down this road before, a bust, and it wasn't pleasant.

You can have all the clothing stores you want in town but when the high paying energy development jobs leave who will have the money to buy the clothes? What we will have are just a bunch of empty buildings......seen that before too.....crash of 86 I believe it was.

Hats off to our Commissions for "remembering". Every house in town was a HUD home. The US Dollar is collapsing at record speed and being prudent right now is the right thing to do.

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