Letter: ‘Oversized’ local government may be hurting our economy

Dear Editor:
By all reasonable standards, it’s more than unusual for a county like ours to collect (borrow) and spend tens of millions of tax dollars in the name of serving the people for such a small rural community as ours (around 8,000+ people). Compared to most counties throughout the good old U.S.A., we are rich here in Rio Blanco County with way more extra tax wealth then about anywhere! How else can a tiny community like ours afford the finest and nicest hospital, justice center, rec center, library, cemetery, remodeled ex-courthouse, with tax districts bursting at the seams with the taxpayer’s money?
So what’s making so many people concerned about the economy around here when we’re rich in tax wealth? And why aren’t some of the very businesses that pay for our local government seeing a direct return from their contributions that fund our local government? Because our local government has decided to spend millions and millions of our dollars on priorities that have resulted in absolutely no benefit too many local businesses, and owners and taxpayers.
Why has our large local government damaged the economy in Rio Blanco County? Because every single job that gets converted from private sector job in our community to become a taxpayer funded job takes away from local commerce. We have become way too top heavy in local taxpayer funded jobs and government.
Take for instance a small recreation ranch business like mine. Even though I make a meager wage at the end of the day my little business spends tens of thousands of dollars every year here in Meeker on local businesses. In fact I gladly do business with both auto parts stores, Northwest Auto and Tire shop, Family Auto, my wonderful accountants at Tax Time, Farm Bureau, State Farm, Joy Surveying, Abstract office, Go-Fer Foods, White River Convenience, Meeker Hotel, White River Inn, Flat Tops Fuel, Watts Ranch Market, both hardware stores, flower shop, Sizemore Welding, and among many others our wonderful feed store! Much of this commerce is lost in our county every time a private sector job like mine turns into a government job. That’s what has happened here. There is lots of money in Rio Blanco County to support a very gifted tax base but, our local businesses need help and they don’t get it.
I talked to one small business owner on Market Street. He told me that his $12,000 tax bill this year was likely more than any annual profit he will otherwise gain. His neighbor a few doors down gets a $14,000 tax bill for the privilege of doing business in Meeker. Can you believe that? That’s ridiculous! In a county so rich they can afford the best of everything but can’t figure out a way to help the very businesses that pay their bills. That’s not helping local businesses!
In addition to massive overspending at the local government level, our county is now facing a big reduction in property valuations thus contracting our annual tax revenue! Subsidies that fund rural hospitals like Medicare and Medicaid are also on the chopping block! To succeed, foresight is a must. I believe we all want what’s best for the people of Rio Blanco County but we need to recognize when something doesn’t work. That way we can go a direction that does.
On a good note, my hats off to the current cemetery district board! It’s good to see awareness of huge taxpayer funded waste around here is getting some attention. Maybe that will spread!
Please voice your thoughts.
Thank you,
Shawn Welder