We did have a couple of more folks show up after Bob left, turnout was however poor, might indicate burnout or apathy on the topic. Those present did however have a good discussion.
The issue with this particular tax is very simple. It has five parts, roads, smaller cities, debt reduction and finally infrastructure/economic development. Many people tend to label this tax as an economic development tax, which it is not. The break out of funds would go 33% to Riley County Road and Bridges, 2% to the smaller cities in Riley County to use as they please, 23% to City of Manhattan Property tax Relief, and 42% to be allocated to Infrastructure and/or Economic Development as determined by the City Commission. In reality the City Commission could use all of the funds for Infrastructure and none for economic development. My goal if the tax passes is to use the lion’s share of the 42% for infrastructure. The main point that everyone should keep in mind on this tax is the simple fact that it is not about one thing, but five things.
To provide some insight on some of the negative comments provided. I for one am on record as wanting to change the way we fund social services. Voting against this tax for that reason will not take any pressure off of efforts to cut SSAB spending. SSAB is not part of this tax. Pass or fail, the issue of SSAB is an issue not related to the tax (unless you can justify giving SSAB Economic Development or Infrastructure funds). I advocate a paradigm shift in how we handle this particular issue. It will be a topic at a November Commission meeting.
The LWC opposes the tax because they want to force a Living Wage. The last two companies that applied for Eco Devo funds all paid above the living wage. MATC was the only organization that had anyone on the payroll lower than the “living wage. I believe that was two employees. Eco Devo funds were provided to MATC to add classroom space. It does not seem to be sound logic to vote against a tax because of wages for two employees. The Eco Devo application procedure has been updated to provide very heavy weighting in favor of the Living Wage. A no vote on this tax will not help the process of Living Wage, in fact it will be a setback. The classroom space provided to MATC, provides an opportunity for training that can result in employment above the living wage.
Many of you are demonizing the Chamber. They serve a function. The economic development results are mixed, some success and some failure. My assessment is that the eco devo efforts resulted in more positive than negative results. Though I do believe that of the five parts of the tax the Eco Devo efforts are last in my priorities, my priority list – debt reduction, roads, infrastructure, smaller cities, eco devo. We can do better with eco devo efforts.
Bottom line on the tax is that it has more good points than bad. If the tax fails the County will have to cut budget or raise taxes to cover the Roads. The smaller cities will need to find a way to cut budget or raise taxes. The City of Manhattan has a debt bubble approaching in the Bond and Interest Fund. These three parts of the tax will result in a cumulative mil levy increase of up to 9 Mils between the county and city of the tax fails. The final two parts of the tax will in theory have a much smaller impact. Without the infrastructure component we will need to raise taxes to cover the K-18 project. In addition DMI will no longer have a funding source. Many proposed CIP projects, like the Library expansion will not have full support of the Commission. Efforts to bring in or expand existing business by the Chamber or the City will terminate. A no vote will in the long run result in the following – higher County and City Mil levy, rejection of future CIP projects, elimination of funding to some organizations like DMI and finally continued pressure to cut funds from other city supported activities to include SSAB. My conclusion is that if you take a holistic view of the tax issue a No vote tends to provide many more negative benefits than positive.