Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Why did the road levy fail?


    The Blaine County commissioners need to examine the political tea leaves in the wake of the failure of a proposed two-year, $10.5 million levy to improve roads.
    Even though county roads are deteriorating, voters refused to tax themselves more, even though most of the taxes would have fallen on properties belonging to out-of-area owners. Just 77 votes made the difference on this measure.
    The commissioners should ask themselves what the vote meant.
    It did not mean that residents don’t want good roads or other infrastructure, or that they are opposed to all new taxes and fees. For example, Hailey voters approved a $6.5 million revenue bond to upgrade a wastewater treatment facility in the same election.
    It may mean that voters are unhappy with the county’s own prohibition on the use of property taxes for road repairs that commissioners approved in a time when state gas taxes and local development fees were rolling in.
    It may mean that voters want commissioners to very publicly comb the county budget to try to find money they could reallocate to fund even part of the road repairs.
    It may mean that the vote, conducted at the commissioners’ behest in a primary election with just 19 percent of registered voters participating, did not accurately reflect taxpayer sentiment.
    It may mean that voters were unhappy that the county commissioners voted themselves substantial pay raises—despite employing a county administrator and a human resources manager to help them—while asking taxpayers to pay more.
    The commissioners need to address these matters before simply plopping the road levy on the ballot again in November.




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