Dick Gustafson: County can thrive on leaner budget | VailDaily.com

Dick Gustafson: County can thrive on leaner budget

I am surprised that after almost four years in office, my opponent, his Democratic colleague and his election handlers do not understand county budgets or finances.

What Peter Runyon, Diana Cecala, and Jon Stavney report as “facts” are really only opinions, based on false assumptions.

Let’s engage in an honest discussion where we all share the same true facts by setting the record straight. With only a few minor exceptions, the county collects sales tax, property taxes, fees, and permits that all go to the general fund that can be spent on capital improvements and operating expenses at the commissioners’ discretion.

My opponents believe that there is a “fantasy” state statute that restricts the use of certain revenues only on certain expenses. They must be confused with one of the exceptions that I mentioned, made in the original ballot language (not state statute), when voters approved a county sales tax for Eagle County.

In simple terms, that ballot measure required that 15 percent of the tax, collected within an incorporated town, be rebated back to that town. It also required that 10 percent of all revenues collected from the tax be spent on county capital improvements. This tax was approved just before I was elected as your commissioner (the first time) and I remember the campaign well. The 15 percent rebate to the towns was a concession to the towns for their support in passing the tax. The 10 percent requirement on capital improvements was to assure that at least some of the money was spent wisely.

A primary responsibility of county commissioners is to be the stewards of the people’s money. At a recent debate conducted by the Rotary, my opponent stated that this election is not about money. The law requires otherwise. According to the real state statutes, the commissioners set the mill levy and approve the budgets of all county departments and of the elected officials, (i.e., the Clerk and Recorder and Sheriff’s offices). I can look back with pride over eight years of tough decisions that were made by our board, when I was your commissioner. The economy was weak then, as it is now, but with wise and careful spending decisions, we made it through.

It is regrettable that my opponent’s campaign is based upon unfounded fears and false premises, such as job loss and program cuts, that will be necessary if we lower the mill levy.

Prudent use of your tax money, with your direction and consent, is my only mandate. Pet projects like “kiddie care”( $800,000-plus), airport renaming ($90,000), and “affordable housing stores” ($650,000-plus), funded through pressure by special interest groups, cause misuse of taxpayer money. My record of responsible decision making with your money is clear. I ask you for another opportunity to serve, not rule, the citizens of Eagle County, guiding us back on track.

I have accomplished a lot for Eagle County that you can explore further on my Web site http://www.ElectDickGustafson.com.

Dick Gustafson is a candidate for Eagle County commissioner.

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