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Prioritize spending for public projects

How would you react if a store stocked merchandise few customers were interested in buying and those few customers who did buy were unwilling to pay the fully burdened price? Would you, a nonpurchaser, willingly subsidize stocking and distribution costs?

The recent perspective about a control tower for our local airport spawned a larger issue. It is so easy to spend other people’s involuntarily contributed money (taxes and fees) when there are few personal consequences and no real metrics to establish whether tangible value and benefits have been widely received. A few vocal groups advocate for such spending that fails to benefit the community at large. Of course, the advocates don’t want to pay for 100 percent of their discretionary activities and recreation, preferring to pass most of the cost on to nonusers who will receive little benefit.

We have many worrying examples in Boulder City of just such contorted logic and thinking that disrespects our many elderly and limited-income residents who must carefully budget and spend their money to survive in an inflationary world.

Our local airport is officially designated as an enterprise fund, the same as the city’s utility system. This designation means that whatever needs beyond federal funding these functions have, they are to pay from their revenue without tapping other city funds. Yet, the airport wants $1,596,438 of city money for the next five years of capital projects, primarily not generated from operations. Why should the relatively few users of the airport among Boulder City’s 16,000 residents be expected to contribute financially? Airport management’s duty centers on funding and running the airport without local taxpayers subsidizing its operations or mimicking McCarran (International Airport in Las Vegas).

It is no different at our two municipal golf courses. A small fraction of residents actually play these courses, even including sporadic users. The fees users pay are inadequate to cover subsidized water, maintenance and general golf course operations. The bulk of residents are involuntarily subsidizing discretionary recreation for the benefit of a relative few.

How can anyone argue that this situation is just, equitable and reasonable? If golf course operations can’t be self-sufficient, shouldn’t we be researching other alternatives, including a potential sale to a private operator with restrictive deed covenants that the courses could not be converted to other land uses?

The municipal swimming pool’s major renovation or complete demolition and reconstruction will soon be before us again. You will remember that voters rightly turned down the $45 million boondoggle proposed by the 2018-2019 City Council, despite the one-sided information campaign presented by that council’s majority, the former city manager and former city attorney.

The current pool financing scheme proposed by the city’s finance director takes money from multiple sources that could be used to repair our crumbling streets or fund overdue city building and asset repairs/replacements spanning many decades, and that would favorably impact most Boulderites.

Given the expansive features specified by the ad hoc pool committee, don’t be surprised if the proposed project costs come in at $20 million to $35 million. That’s a powerful amount of money for a 16,000-person community and 1,500 pool admissions a month. Most Boulderites don’t use the current pool and haven’t over its four-decade lifetime repeatedly marred by ignored interim maintenance and massive deterioration.

The most disappointing aspect of the public pool deliberations is that alternatives exist which have been intentionally ignored because a few swimmers prefer only three choices: 1. Keep the existing pool running on some basis into the indefinite future despite its expensive operating costs; 2. Reconstruct the existing pool, which requires compliance with a long list of new health and safety standards; and, 3. Start anew with an expansive pool/recreation complex.

What are the unexplored alternatives? For starters, Henderson has three competition-level swimming complexes. Boulder City Parks and Recreation could explore a joint venture where we offer scheduled transportation (Silver Rider-style) and reduced price or free admission to our city residents, including high school swimmers. We have Lake Mead. We also have over 900 private swimming pools in every neighborhood of our city. How about swimmers working out a private arrangement with their friends or neighbors who have pools?

Finally, we have our one-branch library system that charges us as much as a 266 percent higher property tax rate than the other three library districts in Clark County. Our county commission-appointed library trustees have been exceedingly hesitant to research merely the possibility of joining our library with one of the other systems, even though there are economies of scale in operations, purchasing and administration to be potentially realized. Why the fear of facts and analysis?

All of the examples cited above support this piece’s underlying premise. Why are people who have a responsibility to carefully spend other people’s money proceeding in such a reckless and carefree fashion? Only public attention and fact telling will change these regressive dynamics harming the general population.

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