Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

So you want a city council seat?

 


Gazette Editor

Three rookies will take seats on the Colfax City Council at the start of next year. Each applied for a seat that failed to attract other candidates. The three new council members and short-term appointee Sarah McKnight will make up a majority of the council.

Public service can have its rewards, but it can also have its headaches. The number of late calls from residents who are upset and want something done about a problem, real or imagined, never gets on the public record.

Colfax has had several episodes of rough going over the past four years. One of the baseline problems is money, or the lack of it.

Council members, through their work on the budget each year, have control of the money, and when the income fails to keep up with the cost of doing business, things can get a little strained.

When City Administrator Michael Rizzitiello departed last November, he happily explained one of the attractions for his new job at College Place was the presence of a couple of major box stores within the city limits of the town.

He anticipated a stream in sales tax revenue from the big stores, revenue which could make the job of a city administrator easier.

Rizzitiello often faced a funding wall when he attempted to make changes and launch projects in Colfax.

Sales and property tax revenue make up approximately 63 percent of the operating budget in Colfax. Sales tax income for two of the quarters in 2016 in Colfax dropped by nine percent with one quarter showing a short gain and one quarter yet to be logged.

Parts of the Colfax economy are stable, but a lot of the retail dollars now are spent in Pullman and elsewhere. The revenue stream is not robust.

Colfax property tax gains are limited to one percent increase in revenue per year.

Faced with the problem of a deteriorating city swim pool, Rizzitiello last year came up with a proposal to form a metropolitan park district which would include the Colfax School District. That never moved past the county commissioners, and the ballot proposal eventually appeared as a new park district in Colfax. Same geography, but another taxing entity.

The proposal failed to get approval, and the city budget eventually came up with funds for a new water heater for the pool. The installation will lack the redundancy of the two-heater system which was part of the original design.

Again this year the city will not have a swim facility for toddlers, another big ticket item which can’t find funding in the city’s limited supply of capital.

Another episode in the fund bind surfaced again two weeks ago when Police Chief Rick McNannay received an insurance check for approximately $17,000 to replace a police car which was totaled. McNannay two years ago located two 2013 used Ford Interceptors which were purchased with a controversial capital boost from sale of the city’s vintage three-wheel motorcycle.

Now he has the $17,000 two years later to find another squad car. It will have to be a used car because of the city’s flat budget.

 

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