Duncan defends city’s budgeting


J. Wright [Letter to the Editor, Oct. 31, Government sets bad example] makes several assertions that Moab city government “[doesn’t] have to follow the laws of economics.” It’s a common sentiment but one that doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.

I’m almost two years now into my first term on city council and I can’t count the number of meetings and hours council members and the mayor have spent in budget meetings with city staff. I can tell you our city manager is very zealous and cognizant of budget constraints. Further, we’re delighted to have an experienced and competent finance director who helps us publicly present budgets, sort trade-offs and anticipate risks to both revenue loss and expense growth.

We raised city employee salaries because too often we couldn’t attract anybody to apply for open positions. For what we paid, nobody could afford to move here. Even now, some positions remain open for just that reason, so we’re not paying too much; we’re not unfairly competing with the private sector.

We managed to raise salaries only because increasing sales tax revenues permitted us to do so while continuing to meet other needs. But that happy circumstance may not exist should the state change sales tax rules or more commonly the business cycle cause variations in visitation. If so, just like businesses, we’ll have to make difficult choices about what has to go.

I frequent local businesses that I’ve observed steadily raise their prices and I presume, their wages over the years. Sometimes I know the owners, but either way you can bet I’m not going to tell them how to run their businesses, even if twice a month they can come to Moab City Council meetings and tell me how to run mine.

That’s the fun part of being on city council. Thanks to J. Wright for writing. The opinions expressed are mine as a citizen, not as member of the city council.

– Mike Duncan