Playing the hand we’re dealt

Our City
by A.F. Mayor Marc Beitia

I wasn’t expecting a call at a bit after four last Friday afternoon, but it came nonetheless. The guy on the other end was Daniel Moore of The Power County Press. He was researching a story on taxes and he asked me if I had a few minutes to discuss them in regards to the city.

I gave him a hesitant, “sure,” as my mind began thinking back to any time we as a city had done anything to the tax or levy rates in my tenure as a councilperson or mayor. I drew a blank.

Another leading question followed: “Did I know that the urban taxing district in Power County was the highest taxing district in the state?” I didn’t. Daniel went on to tell me that the urban district included the city, school district, library, hospital and a few others. “OK,” I responded. He then explained further that the city received the highest amount of revenue from taxes of any of those he listed. I responded with an acknowledgement. But, it made sense; the city serves every urban citizen whereas the others serve some fraction thereof. As the back and forth proceeded he asked me why the city levy rate was set at the highest possible level. “The rate has never changed in my tenure with the city. I honestly don’t know when the current rate was set, but it was the hand we were dealt when Mayor Amy Manning, Dan Hammond, Dean Weaver and I were elected in 2006.” In the big game we call life you play the hand you were dealt or you can fold; I am not one for the latter.

Could levy rates be decreased? Absolutely. Just let me know what services you want to be eliminated with the decrease in city revenue. Or maybe an easier question would be which of the tens of millions of dollars in projects that have been completed over that last ten years would we not have been able to do because we couldn’t meet the requisite matching funds for some of the grants? But, then that last question is not really fair now because those projects are all done and paid for with exception of the water and waste water bond that passed your approval to proceed with a super majority; they really are water under the bridge at this point. So what can we do without in the future? Street repair and maintenance; if you read this column you know my position in that regard. Sewer and storm water are easy to overlook except when it’s you who has a problem. Our parks, golf course and green spaces could be abandoned and we could confine our organized recreation program to school district fields and gyms; except there isn’t enough of either to meet the demand now. But, maybe that is alright, do our youth really need physical activity, do those men and women really need to chase that little white ball around on the big grassy area? I submit the kids need the activity just as much as the adults on the golf course.

As I have been walking the streets in the wee hours of late I have pondered these and other questions long before Daniel’s call. What can we do without? Where can we be more efficient? Simple questions. That is, until I begin to put faces to those dependent on specific services. American Falls has been a damn fine place to live and raise a family and in the not too distant future retire. I don’t believe I am alone in that sentiment.

But we are such a community because those long before Mayor Amy Manning, Dan Hammond, Dean Weaver, Kristen Jensen, Stuart Pankratz, Norm Wright and myself chose to invest all that they could to make it that way. Like I told Daniel, I don’t know when the rate was set but I do know that every May, June and July as the council and I budget for the coming year there are always cuts to be made and sacrifices in every department. Yet, I firmly believe that the councils that I have been associated with have done the very best possible job for each of you in providing the services and amenities that you have come to expect. Your taxes have not been squandered or wasted; they have been productively invested in this small urban town we each choose to call home.

I know Daniel’s article and research is well intended and I look forward to reading the findings; while I will continue to play the hand I was dealt. With some luck in the months to come we may draw to another inside straight much like we did with the original downtown project. But, often times in life we make our own luck by laying the proper foundation from which to build. I believe we, as a city, have done just that and I look forward to giving you more bang for your buck in the not so far off future.

Thanks for the call Daniel. Really! I look forward to seeing how you think American Falls stacks up with what we have been able to do these past ten years compared to everyone else that pays less in city taxes than each of us. In my mind that is the measure; who has done more with what they have invested in their community per capita than the people of American Falls. I would really like to know the answer to that question.

Things changed a bit in the street department this week and as it involves personnel I will not get into details, but you will hear about it anyway through the grapevine so you just as well get it from me. Daren Dahlke is the new superintendent of the street department, a position he held prior to going east to work in the oil fields. He has been an exceptional employee in the water and waste water departments since his return and Pete Cortez hates to lose him but he too said the move made sense. Jeff Nelson remains the building administrator as well as the planning and zoning superintendent and will be helping out in other capacities as well.

Now, it’s my turn to see if any of you would be willing to step up and help where help is really needed. It is truly a Saint’s calling. I was informed this past week that our victim’s advocates program in Power County is now down to one advocate; the cornerstone of the program for decades, Ann Wheeler. It is a volunteer position that comes with a phone that could ring at any time. To make matters more difficult it requires that the volunteers pass a background check. The only thanks you will get will be from those of us in city or county government, law enforcement and the victims of domestic violence you will be called upon to help. If you or someone you know has ever been a victim then you know too well how life changing it could be to have someone truly in your corner and by your side. It is a calling of sorts. If any of you are interested in being selfless let me know or contact Ann Wheeler. Your efforts will change lives; that’s the short of it. The only cost is a bit of time and a lot of compassion.

On that note let me lighten the mood and introduce you to Tamby Gilley, the new concessionaire at the Willow Bay Campground. She’s got a twinkle in her eye and some spring in her step. Both go well with her head for business and management. She and her husband Anthony are excited to get started. Enjoy!

Until next week…

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