Taking money from parks, streets

To the editor,

Although it would be wonderful if the City of Durango could open the library on Sundays, the proposed method of financing the extended hours should be concerning to citizens and city employees.

The three mayors preceding the current mayor described the alleged grim financial future of the city. We were told tax revenues were rapidly declining. What changed that allows the city to fund eight new employees and substantial raises next year?

The answer is that the former city manager and former finance director devised a scheme to use both the dedicated open space tax and dedicated streets tax to fund this multi-million-dollar enlargement to the budget. Voters were clear that these two taxes were to only be used for open space, parks and streets, yet city staff is snubbing their noses at us.

The most recent of these elections was in April. Those promoting the tax for streets did not disclose the scheme to move money from streets to pay for more staff in other departments and then to use the new tax money to supplant what was moved away from streets. The city hired a clever attorney to write the ballot language that allows the city to use the dedicated taxes to unsustainably expand other departments. For example, both assistant city managers could receive a salary of $192,549.

These two dedicated taxes will expire and the poor management of the taxes will make renewal of the taxes difficult. Once the taxes sunset, city employees will lose their jobs.

Help the councilors find a sustainable method to fund the library and salary increases. Compliment them for taking the time to find a solution, rather than vilify them for not rubber-stamping a plan developed by a troubled staff. The decision to open the library and give raises can be discussed in 2020 once a city manager and finance director are brought in from the outside.

– John Simpson, Durango