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Not surprising

| November 17, 2005 11:00 PM

I'm not surprised but I am disappointed.

For some people, the cost was too much. For others, they perceived it as too much, and there were others who just don't want anything to change.

Bah, humbug!

The pool vote was overwhelmingly against the proposed levy to fund a $2.8 million aquatic center with property tax dollars.

Oddly enough, I can hear these same naysayers criticizing the way we spent the $8 million recently.

OK, if the electorate doesn't want us to use property tax dollars to build the community, how should we do it? I want to hear — both on and off the record. I'll respect that.

This community is growing. We're increasing population in the area. We're pushing the boundaries of the communities farther and farther out from the center. That in itself is going to make it more expensive for government to provide fire, ambulance, police and snowplowing services.

The half-empty people say it's all retirees moving in and that we're becoming a retiree community.

Poppycock!

We have 1,388 students in the Libby School District. There are quite a few kids in the under five age category, too. That's a lot of young families whom we need to keep. We need to attract more. And we need to keep and attract young adults.

Why? If for no other reason than to take care of us old farts. Somebody has to do all the work.

We can't depend on federal and state grants, or grants from philanthropic organizations to build our community. We have to do it. The city doesn't have the money or leadership to do it. The county doesn't have the funds to do it and if they did there would be a three-way squabble as to who gets what.

While researching the history of the pool votes in the 1980s I ran across a story on the front page of The Western News in which Dan Larson, then manager of the Libby Mill for Champion International and now owner of Larson Lumber in Troy, spoke to a good sized crowd at a Libby Area Chamber of Commerce meeting. He talked about how in Montana we divided up the meager tax resources we have into too many tiny budgets for too many school districts, cities and counties leaving us with too little money to do anything except continue to deteriorate. He talked about how the property tax payers were beleaguered and how businesses were so heavily taxed that we couldn't attract outside investors no less new businesses.

I don't think much has changed since then. We've let the Legislature tinker with the tax code so much that his observations remain true today.

Larson was selling a sales tax proposal back then. I know, I know. I'm losing at least half of you on that. But consider this: You don't want to build the community through higher property tax and we have to accumulate public funds through some other source. What source? If everyone who mailed in their ballots donated $1,000 we'd have the needed funds. You know that's not going to happen.

If I remember right, Whitefish raised about $2 million the first year it had a resort tax. That changed a lot of minds about the resort tax among the business community. Yeah, I know, we're not Whitefish. But we could be better.

If people are moving here and thinking we're all going to sit back and keep things exactly the same, they're nuts. Change is accelerating here and the communities must take a more active role in shaping their futures. That includes infrastructure upgrades and adding amenities such as the aquatic center.

I want to hear from the no-votes in the recent election. Call me at 293-4124. E-mail me at rmorris@libby.org . I won't identify you but if I hear from enough people I'll share the thoughts so we can build on that. — Roger Morris