The Pueblo West View

Letter: Obscurity vs. transparency

The Pueblo West metro board has indicated its intention to put a sales tax initiative on an upcoming general election ballot – this November or perhaps next May.

Pueblo West voters will decide whether to approve a sales tax to be collected in and for Pueblo West.

The metro board has made assurances that if approved by Pueblo West voters, sales tax receipts will be used exclusively for road maintenance and drainage issues.

It appears, however, that the politicians on both the Pueblo West metro board and the Pueblo County board of commissioners do not always level with the public.

They tell us only so much as they want us to know, that which suits their agenda.

The public gets obscure little snippets of information, or none at all on matters that taxpayers and voters should know about.

For example, at a recent metro board meeting, it was reported that Desert Hawk Golf Course operating budget preparations for 2014 are indicating that a $20,000-$25,000 operating profit should accrue from 2014 golf course operations (notwithstanding a prior decade of substantial operating losses).

But conveniently omitted from this announcement is an acknowledgement of the enabling effect produced by a facilitating policy change that was sanctioned by Pueblo County to accompany the bad debt write-off reflected in Desert Hawk’s 2012 financial reports, and how that impacts the 2014 budget.

Relevance: The only reason golf course operations have any prospect for profit in 2014 is because, due to the policy change, the well-over $300,000 in yearly contributions to golf course operations from Pueblo County — much of it collected from Pueblo West taxpayers — will hereafter be considered revenue, rather than a loan.

As previously noted in letters to the Pueblo West View, Pueblo County in 2012 wrote off as uncollectable nearly $4 million in loans made by the county to Desert Hawk over the past decade, obscuring the bad debt write-off by calling it a “transfer,” but coincidentally betraying an actual $520,735 golf course loss in 2012.

County and metro board members were provided copies of Desert Hawk’s audited 2012 financial reports.

If needed, they were also provided explanation.

But no explanation of this unusual policy change has been forthcoming to taxpayers and voters whose property tax and sales tax moneys provide major support to this activity.

Sure, the information is available, tucked away in county and metro district files; but most people don’t have the time, patience and experience to ferret it out and decipher it; and public officials know it.

Why is this information not being transparently disclosed to the general public?

County and metro politicians expect the public to trust their representations; for example, take their assurances in proposing a sales tax ballot initiative. Yet they obscure the issues outlined herein.

Could it be that as they squander taxpayer money, spendthrift politicians intend to surreptitiously keep the public comfortably blindfolded while asking voters to supply them with more money by approving a sales tax ballot initiative?

Bill Clemens

Pueblo West

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