A million dollar County surplus?
OR BUDGET WOES? … While a recent Daily Planet story may have given the impression San Miguel County is afloat in money, “San Miguel County Ends 2011 With $1 Million Over Projections,” it’s important to put that accurately reported fact into perspective … We are all in a major downturn, both the private and the public sectors. Have been since 2008. But because of the state-mandated way counties are required to assess and collect property tax (our main source of income in San Miguel County), the effect on county revenues has been delayed. Property taxes actually went up for many people after the 2008 recession. Without going into the details, it’s only now that the full effect of the downturn is starting to hit the county. And projections suggest we will be losing revenue (even as demand for services and the cost of providing them grows) for the next four or five years … So, the county has been tightening its belt, deferring raises, forgoing cost of living salary adjustments – that’s part of why we saw about $600,000 more in revenues and $400,000 less in expenditures than our budget estimates for 2011. That and a big help from the Feds, in the form of a Payment-In-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILT) payment larger than we’d expected … And while a 192% increase in interest earnings for 2011 sounds impressive, that only amounted to $22,980 more than projected in actual dollars for county coffers. Plus, as the story noted, property taxes – our main source of income – was down even lower than projections (a worrisome indicator, since our finance staff likes to budget conservatively) … Both the Towns of Telluride and the Mountain Village had to lay off workers. Resort counties like La Plata and Summit have seen layoffs in the double digits. Happily, San Miguel County has been able to avoid laying anyone off, although we’ve let a number of positions go vacant after employees have retired … We’ve built up a year’s operating reserve that we’re going to be drawing on in 2012 and subsequent years to keep the county operating in a reduced but functional mode, while we all try to climb back out of the depression hole – thanks to the housing mortgage scandal and the cost of multiple foreign wars. So, while it might have sounded like the county was bucking the deficit tide most governments are experiencing, that’s not the case. It’s just that our county has prepared well for this rainy day, and the many rainy days to come … Let’s hope we can all go back to regular raises, hiring the five sheriff deputies and two county road workers we’re down, and the slow but sustained growth that is the mark of an economically healthy community.
SEAN MCNAMERA … I’ve long been a fan of “The View”. Like Peter Shelton, another of the region’s sterling columnists, Sean writes about his life here in the mountains or about his travels, and his stories are delightfully written, full of good sense and humor, and invariably captivating … A recent piece, “Hitchhike to glory,” reminded me of how I too, at 66, still hitchhike around the region -- when a car is being fixed, or at other odd times. I actually treasure those moments. Time to touch base with folks I wouldn’t meet otherwise. Stories I wouldn’t otherwise hear … When I was a young hippie, hitching was my main mode of transit. I was only marginally in the money economy. These days I’m part of the economic mainstream. But I still appreciate the generosity of drivers who share their big cars with a stranger (or a friend). And writers like McNamera who write about it so gracefully.
|Co-chair Bill Bartlett and Telluride's John Wontrobski at the Green Party State Convention in Carbondale (photo by Goodtimes)|
GREEN PARTY … Green Party delegates from eight chapters around Colorado assembled in Carbondale’s Third Street Center for the annual State Convention to cheer on Dr. Jill Stein and six state candidates, including a unanimous endorsement of my own candidacy for re-election. Two new chapters were accepted – one in the Pike’s Peak Region and another in Douglas County (there are currently 9 active chapters in the state currently, including the San Miguel Greens in this county and the Southwest Colorado Greens in Montezuma County … Other candidates affirmed at the convention include Steve Schecter for County Commissioner (Dist. 1) in Gunnison County, vying for Dem. Paula Swenson’s seat; Karyna Lemus running for El Paso County Commissioner (Dist. 2); Brad Harris for El Paso County Commissioner (Dist. 4); Victor Forsythe for Denver’s State House District 5; Misha Luzov for U.S. Congressional Seat in district 5, Susan Hall for U.S. Congressional Seat in District 2; and Gary Swing for U.S. Congressional District 1, held by Dem. Diana DeGette … Bill Bartlett of Greeley and I were re-elected state co-chairs for this election year, and Greens agreed to move from a listserve to a forum for Council deliberations and other business between state party meetings.
DR. JILL STEIN … Massachusetts physician turned Green politician is finally speaking truth to power in this country. You may not have heard her name, but you will recognize her New Deal platform ... Makes more plain sense, from what I’ve heard, than any Repub or Demdat … Reagan, Clinton, Bush, Obama -- the two-party see-saw makes the lifeboat bankers more secure, as it cuts loose the Titanic’s safety nets … Let’s do more than just hope for change. This time let’s put a woman in the White House who gets it and has a plan … According to Stein, the 1980s began 30 years of what she called "The Stolen Decades" in which the real wages and purchasing power of the average American worker began to flatline, and the wages of corporate CEOs shot up dramatically. "We need major policy changes to bring economic security to the working people of America," Stein asserted. "The fundamental flaws of an economic policy dictated by Wall Street are apparent, even if they have sometimes been masked by periods of apparent growth that were actually financed by unsustainable credit card and housing debt. Wealth that should be invested in our local economy to create jobs is being put in the hands of the super rich who build factories abroad instead. Families disintegrate while the income of the richest few surges upward. This is changing America in a way that we must not accept."
THE TALKING GOURD
not to want.
How do I ask for that?