Trauger column: Ignoring dollars to pick up pennies
I’m one of those people who picks up pennies when I see one on the street. You know the old saying: A penny saved is a penny earned. Or is it?
As Glenwood Springs voters, we will have the chance in a few weeks to decide how important it is to us to have streets that we can drive on without feeling like we are on a four-wheel-drive road. We have the chance to say “yes” to fixing Glenwood’s streets, now.
Not only will we have the chance to say “yes” to getting drivable streets but we can also fix the reasons that many of our streets are failing .… and it is a darn important reason.
Most of us want to be assured that when we turn on our faucet to get a drink of water that there will indeed be water.
Likewise, when we flush the toilet we want it to go away — far away.
Those are reasonable expectations. But, when you live in a town that is over 120 years old, with water and sewer lines that are nearly that old, there is a real possibility of failure. Most we don’t notice, but they damage the substructure of the streets causing them to fail.
So this question is at least a two-for. We get better streets, and better infrastructure for one low price of a three-quarter (0.75) percent sales tax. What a deal. But wait … there is more.
Statistics show that over half, and closer to three-quarters, of the sales tax revenue that comes into Glenwood Springs is paid by those living outside the city limits. So the burden is not solely on Glenwood residents.
So back to my penny. And just what does this sales tax mean to me? Let’s take the example of my morning coffee. I drink mine black, but say I order a large Caffe Mocha from a well-known coffee chain. With the new tax, it will cost me three cents more. Three cents.
So, if you are a family of four, this will cost you about 24 cents per day.
There are those who are saying that the funds could be found from somewhere in existing funds. Let’s be clear — the money the city has to spend is not like your household budget, or even how businesses are run. If my washer breaks down, I might choose to eat out less or forgo a vacation to allow me to get a new washer. Not so with the city’s finances.
What the city may spend their money on is determined by where the money came from. As an example, the city received some grants for South Midland. South Midland is an Acquisitions and Improvements (A&I) Fund project. Voters approved those funds to be used only for specific projects, and South Midland was one. The money that was leveraged by receiving those grants will be put back into other A&I projects. It cannot be used to rebuild Red Mountain Drive.
This tax is specific and with a detailed plan. It is not nebulous. The funds cannot be shifted. And it is scheduled to end in 20 years or when the plan is complete — whichever comes first. The plan is a 10-year plan.
So back to the pennies once more — and here is the kicker.
Are we ignoring dollars to stop and pick up pennies? This is a $56 million project. Each year that we put this off, more of our streets will fail. And, each year, the cost to Glenwood Springs residents increases by approximately 5 percent or approximately $2.6 million each year. We cannot afford to put this off any longer.
I don’t know about you, but I feel it is about time to invest in something that will benefit those of us who live and work here. Our streets are a safety issue, not only to vehicles but to those riding bicycles and walking.
Glenwood residents deserve better. It is time to fix our streets now.
Kathryn Trauger lives in and writes from her hometown of Glenwood Springs. She has served the community as a member of Glenwood Springs City Council and chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission. She currently serves as the chair of the city’s Financial Advisory Board and as an associate member of the Garfield County Board of Adjustment. Her column, Perspective, appears monthly in the Post Independent. She may be reached at email@example.com or at 970-379-4849.