A quick pointer to the excellent AP story running in today’s Seattle Times, that tells the tale of two rural, Douglas County towns struggling to survive in the wake of Tim Eyman’s ill-conceived initiatives. [Rural towns feeling the pinch]
In Mansfield, population 325, the town’s two full-time employees (superintendent and clerk-treasurer) have taken on custodial duties, vacuuming and cleaning bathrooms to save money. Council members have discontinued their $30-a-month salaries, and the mayor now only earns $50. Because they can’t afford the overtime, snow is only plowed during weekday offices hours… by the superintendent himself.
18 miles away in Bridgeport, population 2,100, they’ve closed their 2-year-old public pool because the city can’t afford the $30,000 in annual operating costs. The city also abolished its municipal court, cut its contract with the county sheriff from $98,000 to $73,000, and retired a firetruck to stay within the department’s $11,000 annual budget.
And these cuts have all occurred while both towns were still draining their financial reserves. While the article doesn’t specify, it seems likely they have also exhausted their “banked levy capacity” to help cushion the crisis.
Come 2006, the real hardship sets in.
While there was certainly some legitimate anger over the state’s high MVET tax, much of the revenue was dedicated to sales tax equalization payments to rural towns like Bridgeport and Mansfield; by reducing car tabs to a flat $30, I-695 eliminated this state aid.
Unlike big urban and suburban cities, rural communities don’t have the base to collect a significant amount of sales tax.
“There are no new businesses. No new revenues. No new industries,” Snell said of Mansfield. “The wheat industry is all that we have.”
Bridgeport doesn’t have an industry. There are no major retailers. Mom-and-pop operations