In the purportedly conservative community I live in, local governments continue to have a very difficult time differentiating between needs and wants (ie the proper role of governments).
Take, for example, the recreation center currently under construction. The multimillion dollar facility (approved in an August tax-increase ballot by a narrow margin – 200 votes – and while one of the cities involved violated state electioneering laws) is supposed to replace a ‘dilapidated’ rec center which essentially consisted of a pool, ice rink, small weight facility and a couple of squash courts. The new facility will have a track, state-of-the-art weight and aerobic facilities, more squash courts, a running track, basketball courts (indoor) among other things (including the pool and ice rink replacements.
The facility will compete directly with, at least, three small businesses (fitness clubs) providing the same services. Personally, I don’t do fitness clubs, but I can’t help but feel sorry for them as how can any small business afford to compete with a taxpayer subsidized facility with no mandate to turn a profit (or be self-sustaining for that matter). The facility is, additionally, touting that the center can be used for parties and receptions (there are several small businesses in the area which provide such services as well). Now $600,000 has been pulled from a contingency fund to build a splash pad (Splish, splash, the pad is back) which contains a pirate ship. This pad is reflective of one that currently exists at a small ‘water park’ (Cherry Hill) about 10 minutes north of the facility’s location.
Currently the Bountiful city council (five cities are involved in the project – Bountiful, North Salt Lake, Woods Cross, Centerville, and West Bountiful) is now considering trying to fund a ‘skate park’ as well. Here is a quote from the local paper (City seeks skate park options) regarding the issue:
[Councilman] Pitt believes the location would be a good one because it would not be very close to many homes. “I’m still absolutely convinced that Bountiful needs a skate park,” he said.
After the council voted to build a parking lot instead of a skate park near the recreation center, Pitt, who voted against that, said he received feedback from a lot of different kinds of people.
“I’ve gotten a lot of support from skaters, parents and some people who don’t skate at all,” he said. “They’ve been very disappointed, and I’d say deservedly so.”
So what does this have to do with needs and wants?
1. Every time these projects are proposed the are called ‘needs’ by the local government. Councilman Pitt gives us a great example. Officials (who consider themselves Republican) always state that a bunch of people came up asking me to support the project (again Councilman Pitt exemplifies the statement). Well, of course that will happen! However, just because you are asked for a handout doesn’t mean you must automatically cave particularly when it involves taking everyone else’s money to pay for a pet project.
While these officials consider themselves conservative, they fail to ever evaluate demands brought to them for the appropriateness of forcing others to pay for them (especially those on fixed incomes etc).
2. The county is preparing to propose another tax hike, in addition to the recently approved taxes for the jail expansion, to fund improvements on the failing flood infrastructure and senior citizen issues. This hasn’t stopped the Centerville, however, to seek funding for a performing arts center with the County Clerk (Steve Rawlings) suggesting that a RAP (Recreation, Arts, and Parks) tax be proposed.
Within two years taxes likely will increase by $110.
So shall we allow local government to tax us for the wants of special interest groups while also struggling to fulfill the core functions of government such as jails and flood infrastructure?
Do we care about the impacts of these taxes (often property tax based) on the elderly, others of fixed incomes and young families making a start?
Do we turn a blind eye to government using current budget monies to fund pet projects rather than returning the money to taxpayers?
It is time to scruitinize government executives regarding their perceptions of needs vs wants. If they can’t differentiate between the two, a change is in order.
Taxing times in South Davis County.