Knowing the facts about 1A

To the editor,

The supporters of Ballot Question 1A are backpedaling because “misinformation” came out that refutes the argument that more tax money is needed. The piece of information they are calling “misinformation” is that sales tax revenues have been increasing since 2011. Supporters of 1A have incorrectly been stating sales tax revenues are decreasing. They even had the audacity to include it in the ballot informational booklet that went to every voter. But that isn’t all the misinformation the supporters of 1A are using to try to get more money.

With the revenue argument debunked, supporters of 1A now say that expenses related to capital projects such as asphalt and concrete are increasing too fast. But this year, the City isn’t spending any money on capital projects. Last year they said they didn’t spend any money on capital projects either. Rising construction costs would only be relevant if they spent money on construction projects.

The money the City made from increased sales tax revenue and the savings by foregoing construction projects was largely spent on increasing personnel costs. The City knows that it is easy to hire people, but very difficult to fire people. The City intentionally increased their personnel costs the last few years so that this Council would have the best opportunity to increase taxes. They inflated the Parks and Rec personnel from 24 employees to 36 employees the last eight years because many people consider Parks and Rec sacred. They added five new Parks and Rec employees last year. Couldn’t we have discussed our priorities and that another police officer might be more important than five more Parks and Rec employees?

I believe it is intellectually dishonest that the supporters of 1A use the declining oil and gas revenue problem to support this tax. Voters should know that the City doesn’t directly receive significant revenues from oil and gas like the County. The City is trying to use the County’s problem to garner support for 1A.

This isn’t “strictly streets.” The City admits that if this tax passes, they will be able to replenish general fund reserves to be spent on things other than streets. Replenishing the reserves will be possible because streets already receive millions of dollars, and the new tax money will supplant the money already spent on streets. The beneficiaries of this tax will be other departments like the City Manager, Parks and Rec or Finance. If the City would have taken public comments on the ballot language, we could have limited this tax to only capital projects.

The City Manager recommended three members of the community to serve on the citizen’s budget advisory board. Doesn’t it make more sense to select members of the community who may not agree with the current direction of the City? And have the board report to the Council, not the City Manager? The advisory boards have become support boards. There is rarely a discussion where there is back and forth between people with different opinions. The City is asking you to trust them with your money because after years of delay, they formed a substandard advisory board.

Before you vote on 1A, make sure you know why the City needs the money and what they plan to do with it. I voted to increase taxes back in 2015, but I didn’t know of all the problems that were being created. Vote no on 1A. And be sure to vote; don’t just throw your ballot away because you don’t agree with the tax increase.

– John Simpson, Durango