A group of local residents and taxpayers have met on two occasions recently to address some of their concerns regarding the future of Glenns Ferry. These meetings were advertised by flyers and word of mouth and were open to anyone who cared to attend and exchange ideas, and were exempt from the open meeting laws.
Some of the immediate concerns are as follows:
(1) Salaries and Benefits. The consensus of opinion is that there are too many employees in both administration and the city crew, and that the health insurance benefits are excessive. We have 11 full-time employees in Glenns Ferry with a benefit package that has an extremely low deductible and full vision and dental coverage. Based upon other Idaho cities of similar population, these numbers are clearly excessive. Salaries and benefits should be cut across the board, and not limited to one or two departments;
(2) Infrastructure. It appears that the city has not utilized good planning strategy nor pursued grant opportunities that would attract and enhance business growth and development. We do not seem to be prepared to attract new business nor residential growth. These are the basic things that spread the burden of the tax bite;
(3) Water Rights. The city has failed to protect the original full irrigation water rights that the city was entitled to and blames the lack of street repair on insufficient funding to do installation of irrigation infrastructure. No action to correct these problems will force more dead lawns in our city;
(4) Street Maintenance and Replacement. We have been told that the cost of replacing a street is currently over $1 million per mile (22 miles in Glenns Ferry). Under the current budget, it will be impossible to even maintain the streets in their present condition, unless 30 percent more funding is allocated;
(5) Professional Services. The city seems stuck on professional engineering services from one vendor (1995 Comprehensive Plan). That vendor failed to posture the city with any shovel-ready projects. The city was entitled to over $600,000 from the Obama stimulus funding package, but received nothing. Is it time to put professional services out to bid?
(6) The Membrane for the Water Treatment Plant. This is a huge concern. It is approximately nine years old, with a projected life span of ten years. The estimated replacement cost is $1 million, and the money currently in the replacement fund is about $487,000. The shortage of approximately $513,000 must come from user rates, as no property tax funds can be used. Excessive wages and benefits have taken priority, so the reserve fund is insufficient to meet this need without astronomical rate increases.
Given the state of the economy and falling property values, we feel that it is important to make serious and meaningful cuts in the city budget and reallocation of taxpayer funds before we reach a situation like the California cities that have recently declared bankruptcy.
The other option is ever increasing tax hikes.
Glenns Ferry is currently the third highest taxed city in the state by levy amount. It is time to stop this and get our town on the path to financial responsibility.
The city council is currently planning a new budget and anyone with concerns should contact their council members and attend the meetings.
-- Arthur Church, Glenns Ferry