Editorial: The work starts now | CraigDailyPress.com

Editorial: The work starts now

Editorial Board Renee Campbell, publisher Jim Patterson, editor Andy Bockelman, assistant editor Kaitlyn Marchbanks, community representative Charlynne Wondra, community representative

Following Tuesday’s narrow approval of Referred Measure 2A — which will increase the city of Craig’s sales tax rate from 2.25 to 4 percent — City Council members awoke Wednesday morning with a high bar in front of them.

The city asked for the increase to counter an approximate $2 million budgetary shortfall as compared to 2008 numbers, and the increase is projected to generate about $2.1 million annually for the city’s general fund, which supports the Craig Police Department, the Road and Bridge Department, Parks & Recreation, local nonprofits and other city services.

We are gratified that city voters chose to support this measure, particularly after they resoundingly rejected a similar measure only a year ago. As we previously editorialized, the city had arrived at a financial crisis in the wake of the Great Recession of 2008, and the drop off in sales tax revenue precipitated by a decline in both the oil and gas industry and population numbers had worked to exacerbate an already grave financial situation.

Frankly, had the tax measure failed, the city of Craig — which, during the past decade, has significantly curtailed spending through the elimination of positions and the deferral of maintenance and equipment purchases — would have been looking at even deeper spending cuts, cuts that might have affected essential city services, such as snow removal and police protection.

Passage of the measure will forestall such drastic cuts and put the city back on the road to economic solvency.

But, at the same time, city leaders should not forget that a significant percentage of Craig voters were opposed to the tax increase, some of them adamantly so. We opened this editorial by describing the tax’s passage as “narrow,” but really, this is a gross understatement. By the unofficial tally, 1,198 ballots were cast in favor of 2A, compared to 1,110 against. That means the measure passed by a margin of only 88 votes. If only 45 of those “yes” voters had gone the other way, the measure would have failed.

And, given the overwhelming defeat of 2016’s proposed tax increase, we strongly suspect that quite a few of those “yes” votes were cast with considerable reservation.

All that adds up to one thing moving forward: the residents of the city of Craig will be watching, and they’ll be watching closely, so it is now the responsibility of City Council members to produce tangible results and prove themselves worthy of the trust voters have placed in them.

Two City Council members —Chris Nichols and Andrea Camp — attended the Craig Press’ post-election Coffee and a Newspaper on Wednesday, and both expressed their commitment to doing just that.

“It is now incumbent on City Council to be good stewards of the peoples’ money,” Nichols said at the event.

We agree, and we have every confidence City Council will deliver.

At the same time, however, we encourage residents to temper their expectations with a healthy dose of reality. The city has been operating at a shortfall for quite a few years now, and the resulting damage will not be undone overnight. But passage of 2A will stop the bleeding; it will ensure the continuance of essential services and the funding of our local nonprofits through the Human Resource Council. It will also allow the city to make long-delayed equipment purchases and capital improvements.

In short, 2A will serve as a bridge out of crisis mode and into growth mode.

The work starts now, and we’re counting on you, City Council members. Please don’t let us down.

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