In regards to the city's current budget difficulties, I would like to begin by saying that the city's budget woes were a long time in the making and they did not just happen overnight.
I am not pointing a finger at the city manager.
This situation was one of the reasons I was not happy about the extra three months given to Mr. Stockwell in his severance package. We really could not afford it. But let us face it, the previous city council instead of making the necessary budget adjustments with a little increase here and a cut there, dipped into the reserves. Those reserves were for economically hard times like we are facing now.
A few years ago we voted to approve a tax increase to help law enforcement. Now one of the reasons I voted for the measure was because it included a sunset clause which meant if there was an effort to extend the tax increase it would have to go back to the voters and there would have to be explanations given on how the money was spent and what results were achieved with the money.
As we work through these difficult times, I feel we need to lay out goals and objectives city services should work towards achieving and a plan should be laid out on how to achieve them.
In the case of law enforcement, for example, maybe reducing gang activity by 10 percent in the next two years and lay out a plan to achieve this and other goals.
In his Op-Ed piece, one of the ideas Mr. Vlieger mentioned was switching over to a volunteer fire department. I don't necessarily have any problems with the idea of a volunteer fire department. I grew up in a small town that used volunteer firemen, but I must admit it was a while back. Most of the volunteer firemen were businessmen or self employed, and so did not have any problem leaving the job to respond to a call for help. Also the town at the time only had a population of only 1,800 people and it was a lot smaller and more compact than Sunnyside is today.
Still there will be a cost in switching to a volunteer fire department in things like the building, equipment, training, etc. There is also another cost that is hidden away in all of this, a possible hidden tax. How will this affect our town's fire rating and impact things like our house insurance rates if Sunnyside moves to a volunteer fire department? What we supposedly would save in taxes might be lost in higher insurance premiums.
Let us also remember the fire department also proves EMS services as well.
When we look at these things we need to look at not just the surface cost benefit, but we need to also look closer and see if there are any higher costs that may affect the savings.
/s/ Carol Peterson,