Cup runneth over
Monday evening the city council had a citizen, Mr. Don Klein, attend the meeting and ask a few questions and make some comments. Mr. Klein is a respected citizen in McCook and expressed some views that I have also heard in our community.
To paraphrase him, he first commended city department heads, staff, the city manager, the city clerk and council for making improvements in the city while taking a very conservative approach to budgeting. He noted the concern about the financial status of the nation and state and how the city of McCook was not in the same fiscal condition. He did urge continued focus on holding spending down.
The bothersome statement was that he indicated a huge difference in what he reads in the Gazette and hears on the street compared to what he hears from the council and staff.
Specifically, regarding the proposed facility for the city, fire and police offices. He asked for clarification.
Now the facts.
1.) If the bond issue fails in November, the city has no plans to go against the vote of the people.
2.) Property tax will not be used or raised to fund the facility. The vote will be to use part of the current city sales tax for the next seven years to build the facility.
3.) Only part of the sales tax will be used. Money will still be available to do other city improvements.
4.) If the vote fails, the building will not be constructed.
5.) Again, no new taxes will be levied and no property tax will be used.
Other facts, despite what may have been in the paper or heard on the street;
1.) the general fund budget increased only 2.14 percent and the Consumer Price Index or CPI increased nearly 4.49 percent this past year so the general fund budget increased less than the CPI.
2.) If we subtract the line items of $200,000 for an elevator in the city library from a generous donation from the McCook Library Foundation, $20,000 for street shop improvements and $64,000 for heating and cooling from a grant from the USDA, we would actually see a decrease in the total general fund budget of $137,134.
1.) Local property tax collected amounts for only approximately $941,000 out of a total general fund budget of over seven million dollars.
2.) The property tax levy has not increased since 2001 and will not increase again this year.
3.) Despite what was projected as minimum of 8 percent increases each year in sewer and water rates when the new water plant was built, rates have not risen in four years.
4.) The North water well field expenses have long ago been paid off and no current taxes are being spent on that issue.
5.) The latest few independent fiscal audits praised the financial position of the city.
My dad, may he rest in peace, said although it takes times, knowledge, experience and skill to build a good house, any fool can knock it down in almost no time. The same is true with a community.
McCook is fortunate to have numerous social and civic clubs working hard to improve our city. We have city employees and officials working to project a positive image of our community while making improvements and maintaining fiscal restraint.
When misleading information is presented and repeated and given as much credence, if not more, than the positive facts, our entire community takes a black eye.
It takes monumental effort to retain and attract businesses to McCook, to get sought after quality professionals like physicians, engineers and educators to move to McCook.
Falsehoods and negative comments hurt those efforts. Constructive comments and criticism is welcomed but needs to be directed to those who can act on those comments. Hanging dirty laundry in public - especially when the laundry is actually not dirty (true) - does not help the community, it hurts it.
I deeply appreciate people like Mr. Klein who goes to the source to get his information and to make his comments. I appreciate people like Mr. Klein who are actively involved in working to provide positive improvements in the community - unlike some who participate in nothing but public criticism and often their information is even incorrect.
McCook has one of the lowest property tax levies of all the First Class cities in the State of Nebraska.
McCook has a wonderful quality of life. I appreciate all those who see McCook's cup not as half empty but the cup running over with progress, a positive past and an even more promising future.