Menconi: GOP can’t keep tax promises
Vail CO, Colorado
Some of the commissioner candidates make many claims about taxes and the Eagle Coun-ty budget. The three most critical claims they’re making simply aren’t true:
1. They realistically cannot return millions of tax dollars to you.
2. They cannot cut taxes and maintain county services.
3. It does not make sense to cut programs that pay for them-selves.
The most important consider-ations in the county budget are: 1) What are the community’s priorities? 2) Where does the county’s revenue come from, and how is it restrict-ed? 3) How can unrestricted general-fund dollars be spent to better reflect the community’s priori-ties? Only after a crit-ical analysis can you figure out where cuts are possible.
While the county’s budget is $105 mil-lion, 64 percent of those funds are restricted. These funds can only be spent on spe-cific categories such as the air-port, ECO Transit, public facili-ties, the landfill and open space.
The commissioners do not have the ability to spend these monies in other way or to return unspent funds to the taxpayers. The remaining funds are classi-fied as general-fund dollars, which are used for salaries, ben-efits, programs and services or general government operations.
The substantial majority of the remaining $38 million of gener-al- fund revenues comes from sales tax ($8.5 million) and com-mercial property tax ($3.5 mil-lion). Only $11.5 million comes from residential property taxes. This is the amount that Gustafson and Buckley are obsessed with but clearly don’t understand.
To put this issue in perspec-tive, remember that Eagle Coun-ty already has one of the lowest mill levies, or property tax rates, of all Colorado counties. It’s only 8.499, including the voter -approved 1.5 mills dedicated to open-space purchases. The Eagle County mill levy is signifi-cantly lower than neighboring Summit, Garfield, Routt and Park counties, which all have mill levies in the double digits. We do have high property values.
In addition, Eagle County only retains slightly more than 14 per-cent of the total property tax you pay. Eighty-six percent goes to special districts, the school dis-trict and the towns. The county’s share of residential property tax on a $500,000 home amounts to $195 per household. Last year, this amount increased $6.20 per month per household.
As a practical matter, in order to lower taxes, county commis-sioners are limited to at the most cutting this amount from salaries, benefits, positions in all departments, including the Sher-i-ff’s Office or programs, senior services, Health and Human Ser-vices, early-childhood develop-ment and community grants. And the most all that cutting would net is a maximum of six bucks a month.
Critics don’t understand that many of these dollars they plan to cut bring in federal and state grants that would be lost if we cut these funds. Their cuts would eliminate matching revenues for programs that many of you receive.
This spending pro-vides important serv-ices to many of our seniors and funds environmental pro-grams, nonprofits and middle-class families and their children. Returning money spent on these programs amounts to about $30 per year to a homeowner of a $600,000 home, or less than $3 a month. If you rent, you don’t get any mon-ey back.
The “slash and burn” candi-dates have been planning or run-ning for county commissioner for a year. They have had plenty of time to understand the basics of the budget. They appear to lack a basic understanding of where county revenues come from, how those dollars can be spent and the financial effect of proposed cuts.
With the struggles and com-plex issues that are facing our cit-izens ” a recession, environ-mental impacts, lack of afford-able housing and decreases in transportation dollars ” we deserve commissioners who are sophisticated and able to plan for the future of what is best for Eagle County. An empty pledge for tax cuts, to the tune of $3 a month, does not sound fiscal policy make.
We deserve county commis-sioners who are not reactionary and easily swayed by populist rhetoric to irresponsibly cut crit-ical county programs that benefit hardworking families. We need commissioners who can plan for the future of Eagle County and maintain the high quality of life that brought us all here in the first place.
Arn Menconi is an Eagle County commissioner. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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