Our view: Voting ‘yes’ on 2A is investing in ourselves
October 12, 2017
Editor’s Note: This editorial has been updated to correct an error. The city of Craig does not provide fire protection.
Question: Is keeping our city financially solvent worth paying an extra 1.75 cents on the dollar?
On Nov. 7, we, as Craig voters, will be given the opportunity to answer that question when we decide the fate of Referred Measure 2A, which proposes increasing the city sales tax rate — excluding hotels, motels and short-term rentals — by 1.75 percent.
If approved, 2A would also do away with the local sales tax on vehicle purchases made within the city limits of Craig.
We realize the very mention of the words "tax increase" typically elicits a visceral, negative response. Let's face it: No one wants to pay more taxes, and persuading someone to voluntarily surrender more of his or her hard-earned money to the city coffers is, at best, an uphill battle and, at worst, a non-starter.
But, just for a moment, we ask you to lay aside any preconceived notions about the evils of taxation and, instead, look at the proposal as you would any other purchase you might be considering: Is the potential value worth the asking price?
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In this case, the asking price is 1.75 cents on the dollar. To put things in perspective, that's an extra $1.75 cents on a $100 purchase and an extra $17.50 on a $1,000 purchase. So, for a household that spends $40,000 annually on purchases made within the city — a pretty generous estimation — the additional tax burden would amount to only $700; that's probably less than most of us spend each year on fast-food and movie tickets.
So there's the asking price. What do we get in return if we agree to this "purchase"?
Essentially, we get to continue funding essential city services — things like snow removal, police protection, street repair, capital projects and deferred equipment and infrastructure upkeep. We also get to go on funding recreational programs, public facilities and the amenities we've come not only to expect, but also to cherish.
On the surface, it may appear we're being asked to pay more to keep the things we already have, and in a sense, that's true, but we feel keeping those things is more than worth the asking price.
To put it bluntly, city finances have arrived at a moment of crisis. For the past 8 years, the city has been burdened by the lingering effects of the Great Recession, and while some other cities have begun to rebound, Craig has not. As a result, the amount of revenue flowing into the city coffers has declined by more than $2 million during the past 10 years. It could be argued that, before asking for more money, the city should first attempt to address this shortfall by finding ways to decrease spending. The fact is, however, that the city has already done this.
During the past four years, city officials have eliminated 12 full-time positions, deferred capital projects and equipment maintenance and sought to reduce redundant spending by combining the city building department with the county. In addition, city employees have not received a cost-of-living increase in four years. Despite these proactive steps, however, there remains an estimated $1.75 million annual shortfall which, according to city officials, will result in additional cuts to essential services — including police protection and snow removal — as well as cuts to recreational programs, street maintenance and parks and athletic facilities.
Critics of the proposal have argued it is unfair to exempt hotels and motels from the tax increase, but local rental businesses already pay a 1.9-percent lodging tax and a 4-percent Local Marketing District tax, a burden not shared by other business concerns, so, in our view, this exemption is more-than justified.
The measure has also been criticized for its provision that removes the local sales tax from vehicle purchases made within the city, but we see this as a potential positive that might encourage residents — and out-of-towners, as well — to purchase vehicles here, rather than taking their business east to Steamboat Springs or, further still, to the Front Range.
So, all told, we look at this proposal in the following terms.
On one side of the equation, we have to pay an extra 1.75 cents on every dollar we spend in Craig. On the other, we keep city services at the levels we've come to expect, while providing an incentive for people to move here and stay here through continued investment in the quality of life.
And that's really what this is: an investment in our city, in our future, in ourselves.
We think an investment like that is worth it.
If you agree, we encourage you to join us in voting "yes" on Referred Measure 2A.
Renee Campbell, publisher
Jim Patterson, editor
Andy Bockelman, assistant editor