On to the Elections
The Tax Advisory Committee’s work is nearly done and they deserve a round of applause. They stuck with the mandate and came to a conclusion they could all live with.
Even Gordon Cook, who initially was intent on restructuring county spending so the property tax could go away, had a change of heart.
“The county levy is a non issue,” he said Monday. “Compared to schools, it doesn’t matter.”
The county levy now is set at 6¢ per $100 assessed valuation. West Platte Schools are at $4.09 per $100, and are the lowest in the county, by way of comparison.
Anyway, as soon as the committee approved the tax split, the concerns started coming out. It’s a cliché, but now the Devil’s in the Details.
Like let’s not build any new park buildings - which really meant no more community centers. Shelter houses, okay. Fund parks already being taken care of by someone else.
Law Enforcement - is that just the Sheriff’s Department, or would the tax be used for the Prosecutor and Courts as well? Is it just for operations or could it be spent for building improvements? What happens to the general revenue now funding the departments? Will it continue to be budgeted for Law Enforcement needs or will it be used for other offices or needs?
That last question was answered with a no, but yes. Commissioner Schieber pointed out that the spread sheet they used included a line with $800,000 a year for capital projects so the county can work on a lot of deferred maintenance. “It does free up money for other things,” he said.
Kevin Robinson, County Auditor, said he disagreed with some of the assumptions in the spreadsheet, but said overall, these are reasoned assumptions. “Outside 2024, there are many variables, so many things that are unknown, it’s very complicated.”
Should the County Commission, this or the next, or next one after, have their hands tied by both sales tax ballot language AND present uses of general revenue?
Probably not. Over 10 years, a lot of things will change. In 2008, commissioners thought Zona Rosa was a pretty good bet. Then things changed and sales taxes didn’t come in strongly enough to pay the debt. It’s a lesson for anyone who thinks funding salaries with a sales tax is a good idea. If you’re going to do that, you have to be ready to supplement shortfalls from general revenue. At the same time, if sales taxes exceed the two percent growth that’s projected, more general revenue could be freed up.
The bigger concern is that, depending on the ballot language, the Law Enforcement Sales Tax might be split between three departments, so there is still no dedicated source of Sheriff’s Department salary funding.
Over a number of years, successive members of the County Commission have run for election on platforms that suggested government wasn’t important enough to fund fully. That’s a winner with people who think government spending is basically a waste and are offended that they might have to share in its cost.
If you see the spending as payment for services, taxes might bother you, but you also recognize that you get something for it - an educated population, fire and police services, books, playgrounds and parks, information, roads and bridges, order.
The county commissioners are going to “educate” you about these proposed taxes, and use the Tax Committee report as the textbook. But this isn’t a classroom. The Committee looked at numbers. Policy is up to the Commission and they haven’t asked for any input in creating that.
You need to let them know what you think about Parks and Stormwater issues. Let them know if you think it’s important to have well-paid deputies, as well as other county workers, who will build their careers here, and not just a resume to take them elsewhere.
This is a fast growing, rich county that has the resources to solve problems. We used to do that. It’s time to start doing it again.
Below is an excerpt from Beth's editorial from this week. The entire editorial may be found in this week's print copy of the Weston Chronicle or online here.