Our Opinion: Tough reality

September 04, 2001

If things do not change soon, the city of El Centro will face serious problems within the next few years.

The city government, despite cutting scores of positions in recent years, will be spending nearly $1 million more than it takes in this year. Ensuing years will get even worse. And this is not a case of a fat and indulgent government entity living lavishly. This is the case of a city facing unfortunate circumstances that are going to be even more unfortunate in the near future.

City Manager Abdel Salem has been going around to city service clubs, other community groups and city leaders and explaining the circumstances the city of El Centro faces. Those circumstances include limitations on property tax collections connected to Proposition 13, an incrementally growing retail community and home construction that is slow although expecting an upward swing in the future, and even that is a mixed bag when it does come.


Salem says there are several routes the city could go, including a utility tax, a general tax, specific taxes, special taxes on new developments, increased city fees or cutting into a city work force that already has been cut by a quarter, from 211 to 170, since 1995.

None of these alternatives would be popular, Salem realizes. And he does not advocate any particular course. He simply says he is pointing out a tough reality that, if nothing is done, could mean the city of El Centro running a $2 million deficit in fiscal 2004-5. By the end of that year the city would be $4 million in debt.

El Centro Mayor Pro Tem Larry Grogan is going to other councils and government boards in the Imperial Valley and advocating a committee be formed to explore the possibility of implementing a countywide quarter-cent sales tax increase that would fund the purchase of public safety vehicles and other essential services.

Grogan is far from a free-spending liberal, but he is a forthright man and seems to realize the gravity of the situation El Centro and other local cities are facing. Grogan may be committing political suicide, but he is trying to address a mess before it gets out of control, and for that he shouldn't be punished.

No one likes new taxes, but no one likes cuts in recreation services or infrastructure maintenance, or most of all, public safety services.

For the city of El Centro, and eventually other cities in our area, it looks like it is going to be a choice of huge, possibly dangerous, cuts in city services or new taxes and fees.

It is time that we all started looking at that as reality.

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