Letter: ‘It’s easy to demagogue town government decisions’
Ryan Summerlin March 27, 2014
To the Editor:
Mark Twain said, “It’s easier to fool people than convince them they had been fooled.” I find myself in the unenviable position of trying to convince some of the citizens of Fraser they have been fooled. A group of citizens complained we won’t answer their questions. We’ve answered their questions, but they are not interested in understanding the answers. They only hear what they want to hear.
For years, basically since Safeway’s sales tax helped grow the town’s general fund, the water fund received an annual subsidy from the general fund. What does that tell you? The water fund is not generating enough revenue to cover its expenses. We have worked hard at weening the water fund off the general fund subsidy by slowly increasing the user fees. We’re almost there. When we budget for the year, we predict future revenue from past experience, spread that anticipated revenue over operation and maintenance needs and set aside a small amount in reserve to cover the unexpected. Accounting has cycles. If you only look at a balance sheet within a cycle, you can come away with a false understanding. You need to look at the budget at the close of an annual cycle and the long range budget projections to gain a truer sense of where you are financially. There is no $800,000 nest egg of savings. But, instead, there is a long list of deferred maintenance projects that need to be done when there is sufficient revenue coming into the water fund. There is a need for new capital improvements of local augmentation storage. There is a need to complete the Elk Creek Ditch No. 2 water right decree by building an augmentation storage reservoir.
New development is paying its own way. It is also building needed infrastructure upgrades to the benefit of older parts of town in the process. The Byers Peak Ranch annexation would have brought many improvements to older Fraser systems that were not obvious. The key to the agreement was there was no out-of-pocket expense to older Fraser, only a leveraging of the excess capacity in the Blue Zone system to build the needed infrastructure. There was minimal risk to the town. Even if the development failed, it would have left the town in a better place because of the default provisions.
Unlike Plant Investment Fees(PIF), all water user fees are used system-wide for operations and maintenance. Rendezvous, Grand Park and older Fraser all share from the same revenue pool. What area do you think needs the most maintenance now and into the future? An area built from 2001 on, or an area built in 1954 on? Who’s subsidizing who?
It’s easy to demagogue town government decisions. Staff and trustees are concentrating on working out solutions to problems for which there may be no easy answers. We welcome constructive criticism. It’s not disrespectful to quell extraneous questions from the public intended to disrupt and obfuscate the discussion. This poisonous behavior denigrates the process.