In November you have a choice. You can vote yes to increase the City of Fort Collins sales tax by less than one penny on a $1 purchase, which will help keep Fort Collins great. Or you can vote no, effectively choosing major and often painful cuts to city services. Let me tell you why I support a yes vote.
Fort Collins and CSU depend on each other for their quality. The energy of the students, the expertise of the faculty, broad educational and cultural activities all invigorate the city. The university itself and related government labs and research companies bring thousands of jobs. On the other hand, our great community setting and amenities help the university remain the outstanding place it is, even in the face of major cuts in state support.
Keeping our top rating as a place to live, study, work, do business and retire is vital to keeping our quality of life, to ensuring our future economic prosperity, and to preserving the status of CSU as a choice place to study.
Several long-term trends threaten sales tax, the most important component of city income.
Spending is moving away from taxable goods and toward non-taxable services. Instead of spending $2 on goods and $1 on services, the reverse is now closer to the truth for many people. Since sales taxes do not apply to services, revenues from sales taxes are down everywhere. In addition, Internet sales have exploded and sales taxes are often not paid on these purchases.
Finally, as other cities and towns have grown around us, theyâ€™ve built their own home improvement stores, shopping superstores and the like. The residents of those towns no longer need to drive to Fort Collins to do a large part of their shopping.
Compound those long-term trends with the current economic climate and you get a serious dip in revenue. In fact, the portion of total income that the citizens of Fort Collins pay to the city was 25 percent higher five years ago than it is today.
Good management, elimination of positions, years of small (sometimes zero) salary increases, reduction of benefits, postponement of required maintenance, and dipping into reserve funds have made that reduction possible without impacting most city services.
But dipping into reserves and postponing required maintenance are not viable long-term strategies. We face destruction of our infrastructure â€“â€“ streets, bridges, buildings â€“â€“ if we do not resume regular maintenance. Our emergency services are understaffed and signs of disorder â€“â€“ graffiti, speeding, neighborhood disturbances â€“â€“ do not receive the level of attention they should. Our parks and recreation programs have been operating largely on reserve funds with reduced maintenance. And we need money to maintain and increase our economic health efforts and to rebuild depleted reserve funds.
If this measure 2B does not pass, then some big decisions will have to be made.
We cannot continue to spend our reserves or let streets and other city assets continue to deteriorate without required maintenance. If we fund required maintenance, we will need to make millions of dollars of cuts in other areas, and we will begin to lose the civic infrastructure that is fundamentally important to both economic and academic success.
Even without funding road maintenance to the level required to avoid long-term damage, painful cuts will be made. We will not be talking about turning off two water features but rather turning off the equivalent of 400 water features. And the cuts will get worse in 2012.
Fort Collins is very special. I hope the great things put in place for us by earlier generations are not mothballed or allowed to wither away. Please vote yes today on 2B to keep Fort Collins and Colorado State University great.
Ben Manvel is a Fort Collins City Council Member representing District 1. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org