In grade school, we all learned that the role of government is to provide those necessities that the citizens cannot effectively provide for themselves. Surely police and fire protection, water and sewer, roads and bridge and in Glenwood’s instance, electricity, fall in this category. It is also understandable that from time to time, debt must be entered into in order to provide these needed services.However, as taxpayers we need to be aware of just how much debt our city is carrying, especially in light of continued requests for city financing of fun facilities like a kayak park and a theater.Fact: Glenwood Springs carries a total debt of $30,625,104 as of Dec. 31, 2004.Fact: The 2005 payment on this debt will be $3,639,208.Fact: Our latest amenity, the pool, carries a debt of $1,818,907.Fact: The annual payment on this facility alone will be $449,685.84.Fact: The cost to run the Community Center, according to City Council budget, is $912,068 plus the director’s salary. This includes nine full-time employees and, for February 2005, 25 part-time employees.Fact: The budgeted income for the Community Center for 2005 is $625,000, which will produce a shortfall of about $375,000. Since this will be the first year of operation with the pool, the figures must be approximate.Fact: The landfill generated $1.4 million in profit, in 2003, the last year that figures are available, but this will not last forever.Of the nine areas of debt, none are paid off until 2009. The largest debts will not be paid off until 2018 with the final one paid off in 2020.From where will this $3.6 million come? The only source of revenue for the city are taxes and fees. We read that the city lost $100,000 in tax revenues in November and December of 2004, attributed to the opening of the Rifle Super Wal-Mart. Has this evened out, or are we still having this loss? We are also told that Meadows will bring in $1 million in sales tax revenues. What is the true Meadows equation? Meadows less the revenue loss from the existing stores that Meadows and the school district taking will put out of business. What are these figures? Do we really know?No wonder one of the applicants for city manager on the first search refused the job, saying that the city would not be on solid financial ground in seven more years. Tragically, it looks like he was right. We need to appreciate that our new city manager, Jeff Hecksel, and the new City Council members are willing to take on the daunting financial challenge of keeping the city solvent.I suggest given this financial picture, that if the kayak park is to be built, it must be financed and operated by private enterprise, just like our three major tourist attractions – the Hot Springs Lodge & Pool, Sunlight Mountain Resort and Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.The biggest expense with a theater is the cost of operations. Even if it can be built with tax increment financing money, we cannot take on the operation expense without having a solid revenue stream in place to cover the deficit that it will create.I submit that we have been on a spending spree. A debt of $30 million is ridiculous for a community of 8,000 people. Let’s use some common sense, get this debt paid down and put Glenwood Springs on solid financial footing before we take on any more debt.Tillie Fischer is a resident of Glenwood Springs.
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Economics may seem complex, but it’s actually common sense, which explains why politicians have difficulty considering the economic effects of their legislation.