Changes needed

Thursday, May 1, 2003

Dear Editor,

Taxpayers of McCook have your wages gone up 35 percent in the past 32 months? (Example: September 2000, your salary was $24,000 a year. Is it now $32,400?) Has the value of your home gone up 35 percent during the same period? (Example: September 2000 it was worth $60,000. is it now worth $81,000?)

Did I hear a loud NO?

Since we passed the sales tax, the city has increased their budget by 35 percent. It has gone from $15.4 million in 2000 to $20.8 million this year. A $5.4 million increase.

We've been told the proposed sales tax is "vital" Does that mean McCook will dry up and blow away if we turn down the tax?

We've been told failure of the tax will be "devastating." Does that mean they're going to make us go to counseling if we turn it down? Looking at the sales tax wish list, I don't see a single thing that I consider "vital" or a single thing that I would be devastated over if we had to put it on hold for a while.

Permit me to elaborate on the two largest items:

$696,000 Phase III B Street. We could put that on hold until we solve more pressing needs like the $1,000,000 air base debt. If and when we do it, let's not call it "beautifying the "B" ... it's better but I don't think it's beautiful. If they really want to beautify the "B," use $50,000 of the $328,000 in unallocated sales tax they have already collected and tear down the Romanoff building.

The only guy I know who thinks five lanes of pavement is beautiful just proposed marriage to the Wal-Mart parking lot. $969,000, "specific projects to be determined at a later date." That, my friends is 43 percent of the proposed sales tax ... they don't know how they're going to spend 43 percent of the money.

How did we pave streets, buy fire engines, maintain and improve our infrastructure and maintain our water and sewer systems before the sales tax? Did our Magic Wand break in 1999?

In September 1999, the city raised our water and sewer rates by 10 percent. In September of 2000 they were raised again by 50 percent. The Gazette of 9/12/00 reported that the increase was "to cover $5,000,000 in water and sewer improvements and the proposed water project." Where did that money go? They've been collecting it and will continue to collect it without the sales tax.

To quote this paper's editorial of 4/26, "we must not throw the entire burden on property owners" ... It won't fall solely on property owners. Residential and commercial landlords will pass the tax increase to their tenants via rent increases. Increased taxes on owner-occupied commercial buildings will be passed on to the customer.

From the same editorial, " putting a damper on the real estate market in McCook" ... Don't think so. The most the city can raise their levy per state law is .130955. That would raise taxes on a $100,000 home by $11 a month ... equal to amortization on less than $2,000 on a mortgage.

Don't know if the mega-colored, full page 13 of the Gazette is an article or an advertisement; regardless, it states that without the sales tax, the property tax on a $58,500 home would be $66.78 a year more. If we deduct from that the estimated $36 a year sales tax we pay on our water and sewer bill, our electric, natural gas, phone and cable bills, that leave $30.78 ... 1 percent of $3,078. If the owner of that $58,500 home spends more than $3,078. a year on taxable purchases, he is better off without the sales tax.

I disagree with the opinion that if we don't pass the sales tax, non-residents will be given a free ride.

The sales tax has generated $3,630,000 which is 1 percent of $363,000,000 in taxable sales.

It is estimated the average household in McCook spends $14,000 a year on retail purchases. $14,000 x 3,700 households equals $51,800,000 x 3 years equals $155,400,000 of taxable purchases came from city residents. The $207,600,000 difference would represent purchases by non-residents. That means 57 percent of the profits to McCook businesses came from non-residents. Those profits paid property taxes, paid wages, etc. Hardly a free ride.

A burden needn't fall on anyone if the tax fails. The $1,000,000 a year it would generate is only 5 percent of the city's budget ... all the city needs to do is cut costs by 5 percent ... they wouldn't need a levy increase and wouldn't need the sales tax.

It can be done. Red Willow County's 2002-03 budget was 5 percent less than its 2001-02 budget.

If you think our money has been managed properly, vote yes. I'm voting NO as it is the only way I can say, there needs to be some changes made.

Thank you, Bill Frasier


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