Crestwood voters should approve Prop 1 next Tuesday
March 30, 2005 - Without a doubt, the city of Crestwood's future hangs in the balance in the Tuesday, April 5, election.
Approval of Proposition 1 next week would go a long way toward resolving the city's well-documented fiscal woes.
A four-sevenths supermajority vote will be required to approve the bond issue, which would give the city the authorization to issue general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $6 million.
Proceeds from the bond issue would be used to allow the city to retire its line of credit with Southwest Bank, establish reserves sufficient to meet the city's cash-flow needs and reconcile debts the general fund owes other city funds.
During a Board of Aldermen meeting last week, City Administrator Don Greer said that issuing $4.732 million in bonds would accomplish those goals. A 24-cent tax-rate increase for 10 years would be required to retire the bonds. The city's current tax rate is 25 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.
No one likes to pay additional taxes, but, quite frankly, Crestwood citizens receive quite a bargain given the high level of municipal services and amenities they en-joy, while the city's tax rate has remained at 25 cents per $100 of assessed valuation since the mid-1990s.
The Board of Aldermen voted 7-0 in January with one abstention to place Prop-osition 1 on the ballot. Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel abstained.
The decision to place the bond issue on the ballot was not made lightly as aldermen discussed the possibility of placing a general obligation bond issue on the ballot during work sessions in December and September.
During the September work session, al-dermen made it clear that they do not wish to eliminate or further reduce services the city currently provides to residents.
But given the state of the city's finances, if Proposition 1 is not approved, a reduction of services may be necessary, according to city officials.
Opponents of Proposition 1 are quick to claim that city officials are "threatening'' residents with a reduction of services if the bond issue is not approved. Nothing is further from the truth.
The fact is that the city's general fund is experiencing financial problems and 80 percent of general fund expenditures go to employee salaries and benefits. Of that 80 percent, two-thirds of those expenditures go to public safety — the Police Depart-ment and the Fire Department.
Given that, the only place where cuts could be made that would have any kind of significant impact would be in public safety.
It's unfortunate that some people fail to realize how serious the situation is and actively are opposing Proposition 1.
Where were those people last summer when the Board of Aldermen reviewed the workings of every city department during a series of work sessions?
Where were they during the four-hour work session the board conducted in late December when it came to a consensus to place a bond issue on the ballot? Less than a handful of residents attended that Dec. 29 work session.
Some opponents of Proposition 1, including Alderman Miguel, now are calling for some sort of no-bond-issue tax-rate increase of roughly 30 cents. But that won't do the job, according to Mayor Tom Fagan.
"There's been talk by some of the people ... why don't you just have a simple tax increase? Well, if you look at the math, if you're going to get the same amount of revenue and get us back to where we need to be, it will take eight years — eight years, ladies and gentlemen, of that property tax increase. So that 30 cents, is what I think they had proposed, some of them — eight years for what's going to take us if the bond issue passes, it's going to make us right shortly after the election,'' Mr. Fagan said last week at a candidate forum sponsored by the Call.
"In addition, I've told people if the good voters of Crestwood don't want the tax, we're going to have to reduce services. That's unfortunate. So you can cut expenses and I tell people, once again, it's the general fund that has the majority of the problems. Because of that, the line of credit, remember we're paying interest on the line of credit, and because the general fund owes the capital-improvements fund, we have problems in our general fund ...,'' the mayor said.
City officials are quite candid that approval of Proposition 1 is not a panacea for the city's financial woes. But it rights the ship and allows the city to continue its financial recovery.
We believe approval of Proposition 1 is the right proposal for the city of Crest-wood at this point in time and urge citizens to approve it. At an estimated 24 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, it's a bargain to maintain the high-quality services and amenities Crestwood offers.