Dear Editor:

When I was elected to the Paonia Town Board in 2014, it was the first board that did not include any trustees present during the Chesnik debacle. The only board member left from the Chesnik era was former mayor, Neal Schwieterman. It was also the first board to hire a town administrator in eight years. During 2014 and 2015, there were substantial changes made to how the town operated. The town stopped paying overtime to exempt, salaried employees. The former chief of police was no longer allowed to live rent free in town owned property. One of two pensions for police officers was eliminated. Overpaid staff were either removed or left. The number of town employees was reduced from 19 to 15. Controls were put in place where every town transaction is reviewed by the finance officer, the town administrator, the finance committee and the town board. Most importantly, economic discipline was imposed on the town. The town has had two boards that have cut costs wherever reasonably possible.

In 2012, the town received $102,384.68 in severance taxes and mineral leasing revenue. Since 2012, two of three local mines have closed. In 2017, the town received just $16,920.30 in severance taxes and mineral leasing revenue, a reduction of $85,464.38. Severance taxes and mineral leasing revenue help fund the town's general fund. The general fund pays for police, streets, parks, and general administration. Because of the discipline of the town's administrator, finance officer, treasurer, and department heads, the town's general fund spending for 2017 was within $3,500 of what was budgeted. The general fund budget for 2018 is $581,149. It is the first time since I have been on the board that the general fund budget is less than $600,000.

To provide basic services, the town needs to pay its bills. The revenue the town once received from severance taxes and mineral leasing must be replaced. As costs continue to rise, a sales tax increase from 2 to 3 percent is necessary. A sales tax of 3 percent is not high. Delta has a sales tax of 3 percent. Montrose has a sale tax of 3.0 percent. Erie has a sales tax of 3.5 percent. Fort Morgan and Rocky Ford have a sales tax of 4 percent.

I am not a fan of tax increases and I believe that they should be requested only when expenses have been reduced as much as possible. Over the last four years, the town board has done just that. Good government must be properly funded. Vote yes on Town of Paonia Referred Measure 2G.

Charles Stewart


Town of Paonia


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