I have a couple of issues to address, so let’s start with the upcoming question that Council will place on this November’s ballot. It has a specific purpose. It is meant to change how the city sales tax is distributed, especially allowing more flexibility between capital and maintenance. We are still trying to reach agreement on some details, but the most critical piece is to provide some relief from the numerous constraints on how city money can be spent. The current situation leaves little in the way of funds for day-to-day operating costs. Locals are starting to ask me why the parking spaces have not been painted, why there are dead trees in the parks, why the streets are not clean, etc. We are struggling with funds right now for these tasks as well as staff to complete them.
Individually, each of the voter initiatives passed in recent years was fine, but taken together they give far too much to capital projects and impost extensive restrictions on how funds can be spent. I know we have a lot of street work to do (All of the Carlisle-Farney goes to streets with 75% restricted to capital.), but when those amounts are combined with the restrictions of 53% of the funds from the 2% tax, it ties our hands. There has not been much information out about this. Please let your friends know how important it is to pass this ballot question. We need to be able to put more into maintenance as needs arise.
I’ve also been hearing from residents that they don’t know what is going on in terms of staffing at the City. What they have heard about is the number of staff that have left. It has been a difficult period and I hope that things will improve. We lost the entire finance department, but now all of those positions have been filled. It will take time for new staff to learn their positions and get everything caught up, but they are working on it. We lost a number of police and have had difficulty filling those positions due to salary levels, the national environment and the cost of housing in Salida. I know that three positions were filled, but I think the most recent positions are still in process. A similar situation can be found in public works. We have also lost almost all of our fire reserve staff, but full-time staff are all still in place. The latest has been the departure of Dan Osborn, Director of Planning and Development. We do have a temporary person in that position, Beverly Kaiser, and Steve Robe is serving as the temporary City Administrator. It is likely to take some time to get all these positions filled and for new staff to become situated, but we have a good start on this.
I want to briefly mention that I am becoming more and more concerned about meeting our housing needs and how this factor is impacting everyone’s ability to hire new employees. We are all identifying some great applicants and then finalizing contracts becomes difficult when people selected for positions can’t find a place to live. The City, the school district, the hospital, and many businesses are experiencing this same scenario. I have a long list of ideas and will be focusing more on this soon. Thanks for your interest and involvement.