TheMarch 15th regular meeting (last Thursday) of the WP City Council began with a tribute to war veteran Merle Bradly, but concluded with another internal fight.
That is a familiar trend for the regular Thursday council meetings that have turned into political football for several months.
Bradly is a survivor of what was America’s bloodiest battle, the 17 day siege of the Chosin Reservoir, during the Korean War. Over 17,000 US soldiers were killed, wounded, or reported missing n action at Chosin Reservoir. A Siberian cold front descended on the valley during that battle, dropping temperatures to minus-35 degrees, making conditions even more brutal. Bradly, who was wounded by gunfire in action at the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, will celebrate his 90th birthday on March 26. Bradly served in the United States Army from 1950-1957.The crowd in council chambers rose to their feet in applause severaltimes to honor Bradly.
Mayor Neil Levy read a proclamation declaring March 26th, 2018, Merle Bradly day, and presented Bradly with the Mayor’s pin and a certificate honoring him for his service and sacrifice.
The civil and award-presenting atmosphere, though, quickly deteriorated when council reports were read. City Manager David Buttery called out what he considers to be unfair and unsubstantiated claims levied against him and the council. At issue are reported cost overruns onseveral capital improvement projects. These claims, made by Tanner Coy,treasurer of the DDA (Downtown Development Authority), maintains that WoodlandPark is the highest taxed city in the state.
Buttery began his report by challenging Coy’s assertion that Woodland Park is the highest taxed city in the state. Buttery compared the city’s tax rate with rates of all 270 municipalities in the state.
According to his numbers, the median mil levy in the state is 11.591. He pointed out that 33 percent of municipalities in the state have a higher rate than Woodland Park, but that 67 percent do have a lower rate than the city.
Buttery went on to address a comment made by a council candidate at the chamber of commerce forum, that businesses pay 4 times the residential rate. He conceded that is indeed true but pointed to the Gallagher Amendment as the reason and that that amendment applies to all municipalities in the state.
He then addressed the claim that the city is among the highest in the state in sales tax. The city general fund sales tax is 2 percent; the city street fund is 1 percent. Buttery noted that the street fund tax was approved by a vote of the people with an 85.5 approval. The schooldistrict sales tax of 1.09 percent was also approved by a vote of the people with 60 percent of voters in favor. Therefore, total city sales tax is 7.99 percent. Total of that tax to the city is 3 percent; total to the general fund is 2 percent. He explained the general fund iswhat allows for city services.
His comparison to the other 270 municipalities in the state reveals 96 municipality’s sales taxes are higher than Woodland Park.
Buttery then accused Coy of using the term “the liberal tax and spend council” as a ploy to create division in this election cycle. He said, “Yes we tax. Yes we spend. Civilized societies have been doing it for thousands of years, because they’ve decided that a group of people is better than individuals doing it on their own.” He went on to point out there was no tax increase for the Aquatic Center, that 70 percent of the voters approved of the city going into debt to build thefacility. He then addressed Councilman John Schafer’s assertion that there was a50 percent overrun on the Aquatic Center. He said, “This is not true.It’s revisionist history. It’s false news.”
Buttery presented a Powerpoint slide show of the numbers that he says prove there was no cost overrun on the Aquatic Center or the MemorialPark renovation. His numbers showed that both project did in fact comein under budget.
Schafer, however, said he would come to the next meeting with his own numbers that show there was indeed massive overruns on both the Aquatic Center and the Memorial Park renovation.
Regardless of the dispute and war of words, Buttery will be stepping down in April. And apparently, there is a lot of interest in his position. City attorney Erin Smith presented council with a list of internet job search sites where the job opening for city manager willbe posted or reposted. The job offer will run on the sites until April 1. As of March 15, the city has received 92 applications for the city manager position.