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June 20, 2013 8:14 am

EDITORIAL: Budget cuts, then raises?

Written by Tessa Schweigert

Months after 1-cent tax effort, cities give raises to employees

Budgets for the cities of Powell and Cody took an unexpected turn this spring.

After voters were asked to provide more tax revenue last fall, both cities then found enough money to give raises to employees.

Leading up to November’s election, Park County residents heard how Powell, Cody, Meeteetse and Park County needed additional money for infrastructure. Leaders said reduced budgets and dwindling funds put needed maintenance and infrastructure projects on the back burner over the years.

We believe many of those projects presented to voters last fall are still needed. It just appears that at this time, raises are a greater priority with money that’s available.

Voters were told that without the 1-cent sales tax, there could be cuts to services that residents have come to expect.

Before the tax failed on the November ballot, Powell Mayor Don Hillman said that “there could be tough decisions to be made” without the additional tax revenue.

“If the optional sales tax doesn’t pass, then we’re going to have to do the best we can with what we’ve got,” Hillman said last fall, noting that it probably wasn’t “going to be as good as what we’re used to.”

In the 2013-14 budget approved Monday night, the city of Powell already whittled down some of its extra services, such as overtime for snow removal and preparing baseball fields on nights or weekends.

Over in Cody, funding for nonprofit organizations is on the chopping block. The Cody City Council questioned the need for funding community organizations as leaders take “a priority-based approach to budgeting,” according to the Cody Enterprise.

“In the last few years, I’ve heard things from (city) staffers like, ‘You didn’t give us a raise, but you gave the Boys and Girls Club ‘X’ amount of money,” Councilman Steve Miller said in an Enterprise article. “I’d like to see us come up with an exit strategy.”

Thankfully for local organizations, the Powell City Council has chosen to generally maintain special requests from groups like the Boys & Girls Club and other nonprofits, even while giving raises to city employees.

It’s important to note that the city of Powell has looked for ways to cut its operating budget. In three years, the city has reduced its general fund expenses by about 18 percent to match revenues that declined at about the same rate.

Also worth noting is that Powell employees must earn their raises — it’s not just a standard percentage increase or a cost of living adjustment. The merit increases will vary based on each employee’s individual performance evaluation.

In Cody and Powell, city leaders said they want to invest in their hard-working employees. City Administrator Zane Logan said the city’s workforce is a valuable resource for the community.

We understand hard work should be rewarded.

However, in the future, we expect local voters will be even more skeptical of sales tax initiatives for local governments. It’s hard for voters to understand how a budget crunch in the fall can be followed by raises in the spring.

1 Comment

  • Comment Link June 24, 2013 6:24 am posted by Disgusted taxpayer

    Beware of a wolf in sheep's disguise,beware of the bait and switch fiasco's that RINO's love.You all asked for these RINO "conservative" clowns,now eat crow.

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