County needs flexibility
Vote 'yes' on Referendum 1A
On Tuesday, Moffat voters will be asked to decide whether they will exempt the county from strict revenue limits imposed by a nearly century-old law.
We think voters should.
Referendum 1A on the Nov. 1 ballot asks voters to forgo tax credits during the next five years so the county can provide basic services, improve infrastructure and invest in capital projects it has postponed for years.
County officials estimate the measure would generate about $960,000 for county services in the first two years.
We strongly urge voters to approve the measure, which, contrary to opposition rhetoric, is not a tax increase. County officials are only asking to use money that has been collected because of increased assessed property values.
It’s worth stating again: 1A is not a tax increase. Rather, it unbinds a county government long hamstrung by a formula that doesn’t allow it to quickly climb out of recessions or immediately react to economic ebb or crisis.
The 1913 law restricts county revenues to 5.5 percent growth from one year to the next.
If the economy drags and revenues decline one year, the county can’t fully rebound the next because it must determine future growth by using the lower level of revenues, otherwise known as the “ratchet effect.”
In 2003, assessed values were $298 million compared to $321 million the year before, a 7 percent dip. It forced county commissioners to make drastic cuts still haunting the county.
With rising energy production, assessed Moffat County values also are on the rise. In 2004, values were $341 million compared to $390 million this year, a 14 percent increase.
But the 5.5 percent limit means the county can’t take full advantage of the increased prosperity.
Plus, county departments have to make cuts to offset rising fuel costs.
In the balance are such basic services as mosquito spraying, road grading and snow plowing.
We believe it’s a good idea to limit government spending. But we also believe it’s always dubious public policy to take away the ability of elected officials to respond to the needs of its constituents.
If the referendum fails, families shouldn’t expect hefty refunds –he top taxpayers, such as the power companies and coal mines would receive the bulk of the tax credits.
But voters should expect the loss of some basic services and the inability of county commissioners to effectively conduct the public’s business.
We urge voters to pass 1A.
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