The Brookings City Council made the tough, but right decision this week to help the fire department purchase a much-needed fire truck.
At first glance, making the $443,677 purchase in the face of a looming $1 million debt payment for sewer plant improvements doesn’t make sense. Perhaps it will help if we simplify things.
The city is unable to make the expected debt payment because of the lack of new sewer hook-ups (or system development charges) in the past few years. To cover the debt payment, the city has few options. It can raise sewer rates and/or property taxes for existing residents, or take the money from the general fund – and away from city services such as the fire department or the public swimming pool.
While the city may be tempted to find the money wherever it might be in the city coffers, it should keep the sewer payment issue separate from other public services. Do not penalize the fire department (which set aside its own budgeted money for a down payment on the fire truck) or the swimming pool, which struggles to stay afloat each year.
Still not convinced? We ask:
Do you want to help a local restaurant owner save money on his sewer bill, or help a child to learn how to swim?
Do you want to help save a developer from higher sewer connection fees, or provide our volunteer firefighters with safe, effective equipment?
Years ago, when promoting the sewer plant improvement bond, well-intentioned city officials promised that current users would not bear the cost. Today, most people understand that this is one political promise that cannot be kept. It’s not a matter of political flip-flopping. Circumstances change, and people must adjust accordingly.
City government is not a for-profit business. Its sole purpose is to provide adequate community services. And if city officials have to raise our rates or taxes to do so, then so be it.