Sunday, January 29, 2023

And it continues …

| November 29, 2005 11:00 PM

Here's some more comments about the pool vote:

I'm responding to your request for input on the pool rejection. I offer two comments:

1)Timing. I had my real estate property tax bill on the desk (due Nov 30) during the vote period. Did I really like the pool idea that much to see it add $500 to the already ridiculously high bill on the desk? I also had my land lord's real estate tax bill on the desk for the business. Close to $5,000! Can I count on my Libby customers to support the price increases I need to cover what ever huge increase the pool will add to that bill as well? NO.

Personally I was FOR the pool in a big way. Ultimately it became what some other wants become in life…more than I can afford.

2)While there is a nice wind of improvement of store fronts and such underway that says some are investing in Libby-millions of dollars are going down the road voting against Libby, and FOR somewhere else! Millions are improving the tax base, the wage base, the infrastructure, and the quality of life in Kalispell. Why would we expect these people to invest more here when they are voting against it every time they get in the car?

During the recent pool campaign I was struck by the less than forthcoming brochures that were passed around community events. The proponents minimized the financial impact on a property owner within the park district boundaries. They highlighted only half of what would be the eventual long-term financial obligations of a taxpayer, which raised questions about the integrity of the proponents. From my experiences, one can't afford to be less than totally upfront while selling a project of this magnitude.

The financing scheme in this case was horribly flawed. Public works projects of this magnitude invariably fall short of revenue projections once they are built. Considering the rather small population base in and around Libby, the user fees would have to be raised considerably to make up shortfalls or a continued bail-out based on a property tax levy would be essential. There was no fall-back financing available, no collaboration with other public or private revenue sources that were listed or promoted. One could legitimately construe that property taxes would continue to climb to subsidize the pool. Some might think that property taxes are one of THE most regressive of taxation methods.

If memory serves me right you hit on what Libby must consider if it is to build public works projects of the pool's magnitude. Namely, Libby has to consider other taxation methods in order to increase the quality of life attractions that will assist in garnering income and inducing folks to become residents. A "tourism sales tax," hotel-motel taxes, food and beverage taxes, and user fees are all methods to garner income that can and should support public amenities. Floating bonds based on these revenue streams would be a whole lot more palatable to citizens if they are educated about the merits of same.

You also deplored the lack of leadership within the City. There are some who have moved here that would assist in the development of the City if given the opportunity to participate, and add what we've learned elsewhere. There is the stigma, real or imagined, of the "good 'ol boys" running the show here. The most common complaint I heard on the streets was who owned the property where the pool was to be located, the mayor or his cronies?

For myself on whether to vote yes or no:

Did I mind the thought of, in essence, subsidizing the use of the pool by property poor citizens? No. Did I mind bailing out a seriously flawed financing package in perpetuity? Yes.

Observations of the campaign:

Half page adds with paragraphs of refutations and information are a waste of resources. The average reader pays scant attention to "prose-like" ads.

The campaign signs, though scattered in good locations, were barely legible to the passing vehicle.

One of the co-chairs was dumbfounded by the result, stating that no one had the gumption to question the project from the beginning. I questioned him in his booth at Nordicfest at length about the financing package, explaining that I had extensive experience in similar projects. There were also many well-written letters to the editor that pointed out the financing flaws.

One does not win a campaign by telling the public that "everyone" I talked to is for it. Mr. Germany, with all due respect for his efforts, does not know how to run a campaign. People see through that ruse pretty easily.

It appears, most people want development. They need help affording it. Keep writing. — Roger Morris