Friday, February 27, 2009

Consolidation debate could be hot

Government, businesses and families are looking for innovation to defeat the hard times of 2009.

Sun Valley and Ketchum City Councilmen Dave Chase and Charles Conn have joined forces to try to convince voters in their towns that they can save money and meet the challenges of declining revenues from resort cities' local-option sales taxes by consolidating the two cities.

It's a debate that's necessary given the daily inflow of economic bad news and the prediction that economic recovery, once it begins, may be slow—especially in communities like ours whose economies are based on tourism, construction and real estate, which have been hit hard.

The debate should be driven by facts, not assumptions. For example, if the cities become one, it might be assumed that they would need only one city administrator instead of the two they have now. However, given the greater scope of work—bigger budgets and the larger staff in a single city—it's possible that much of the savings could be eaten up by the need for more middle managers or support staff.

A great challenge in the debate will be to reconcile the disparate political and economic sensibilities in Ketchum and Sun Valley even though they have become more alike over the years as vacation homes replaced full-time residences. For example, one of the most contentious issues in Sun Valley's last election was whether the city should help fund the YMCA located on property owned by Ketchum.

It's a good bet that the weather for the spring and summer debate will be hot and partly cloudy.

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