Vail Daily column: It’s going to get harder
Economic indicators, from consumer confidence to travel price index (and closer to home, local lodging occupancies) continue to trend in a positive direction. Election years are typically good for the stock market although this year’s “fiscal cliff” might be the exception. Housing inventories and sales volumes are both moving in the right direction with September being the best sales month since November of 2007.
And there are a number of new events and reasons for celebration including Vail’s 50th birthday, the new gondola in Vail Village, the Burton U.S. Open and last summer’s announcement of Vail Resorts Epic Discovery on-mountain summer plans. Plus, Mother Nature will be kinder to us than last winter (right?).
But of course nothing can be taken for granted. Municipalities, metro districts and other special districts that rely on local property tax collections for their operating funds are looking ahead to 2014 budget cycles with the knowledge that we’re going to see another 15-20 percent hit on property values and in turn, their budgets used to serve the public.
What’s this mean? It’s going to get harder.
The Eagle River Fire Protection District has, starting earlier this summer with drought conditions and fire bans in place throughout the state, been closing fire stations on a rotating basis (although voters earlier this month approved a mill levy increase). The Eagle County School District has cut staff positions and implemented limited bus service for students. Eagle County and other municipalities will be facing similar reductions in property tax income affecting everything from maintenance of facilities to the severe reduction of capital reserve accounts. Our recreation districts and metro districts will face similar reductions in property tax funding.
Government, quasi-government or private industry, we’re all faced with tough decisions on budget matters. Funding doesn’t solve our problems and lack of (historic levels of) funding requires difficult decisions that result in multiple impacts both immediate and long-term. Moving forward and building on our successes while faced with, in many cases, lower budgets to achieve our goals creates a huge challenge throughout the community.
Like I said, it’s going to get harder.
What can we do?
We’re fortunate to be a community filled with a unique entrepreneurial spirit that serves us well in difficult times. Our municipal offices are filled with dedicated public servants resulting in strong organizations throughout the valley. Our town councils spend multiple hours offering expertise and feedback to provide direction. Our metro districts and recreation districts are led by teams of dedicated volunteer board members and staff members well equipped to deal with the challenges ahead.
Collaboration, cooperation and creative thinking will help us as a community to make it through continued budgetary challenges and compressed operating businesses. Citizen involvement and engagement in the process, via formal volunteer and service opportunities or via sharing comments at public meetings, will become increasingly important.
On that note, I offer kudos to those who get off the sidelines and offer their time, effort and expertise to solve problems. It’s refreshing to see people engage in offering solutions rather than just complaining about problems without making any effort to be part of the answer.
I certainly don’t pretend to have all the answers. But I know what won’t work, and that is for good people to sit on the sidelines and spending their time adding to the problem by griping and complaining instead of offering possible solutions. Pointing fingers, while not offering to lift a finger to help, isn’t the answer.
We’re stronger together and as our property values continue to decline, resulting in less funding for our service providers and special districts, it’s incumbent upon everyone to get engaged to help improve our community and the way we do business. The best solution to a problem isn’t to complain, it’s to get engaged and help offer a solution.
That will help make it easier.
What can your business do to help? If you benefit from our collaborative programs, get off the sidelines and join the Partnership. If you are already a member, tell your neighbors to join to help us do more here in the valley.
Chris Romer is executive director of the Vail Valley Partnership.