Park County stands to lose out on millions of dollars if Referendum 1 passes

I’m writing today about one of the many reasons why you should vote No on Referendum 1: Park County stands to lose millions of dollars if we vote to abolish our Growth Policy.

On Tuesday, April 9th our commissioners painted a bleak picture of the financial state of Park County at their weekly county commission meeting. You can find a video link to their meeting here

The commissioners were forced to cut $200,000 from the budget of the Sheriff’s Department and $200,000 from county roads. Worse, they’re still more than $150,000 in the hole after making those cuts. This problem is only expected to get worse.

“It’s gonna be cuts and cuts and cuts every single year until we figure something out,” said Clint Tinsley, Park County Commission Chairman.  

These cuts don’t bode well for residents of Park County. Maintaining rural roads and keeping them in good condition is one of the biggest funding challenges local governments face every year. When our infrastructure, bridges, and roads receive less funding they can degrade to the point of becoming safety liabilities. Ambulance services and emergency response times depend heavily on well-maintained roads. 

Park County literally can’t afford Referendum 1 because it will make this budget crisis even worse.  Our Growth Policy has been critical to helping the county receive grant funding to augment our tax base. Since the Growth Policy was adopted in 2017, the county has already received $36.1 million in grants. 

Among the ongoing projects that were made possible by funding secured with a growth policy:

    • $14.6 million to upgrade Shields River Road this summer.
    • $4.1 million to upgrade Old Yellowstone Trail South and provide emergency vehicle access through Yankee Jim Canyon.
    • $492,000 to upgrade bridges in Cooke City and Silver Gate.

County Grants Coordinator Kristen Galbraith said she anticipates the loss of a growth policy could impact dozens of grant applications in the future.

“The road department is short-staffed and underfunded. The roads are a mess,” said County Commissioner Bryan Wells on Tuesday morning.

It’s not just roads either. The Growth Policy has helped secure funding for Gardiner’s Capital Improvement Plan and the Gardiner Food Pantry. Having a growth policy would also help secure funding to update a new growth policy.   

Do we really want to make our budget problems worse by repealing the growth policy now? 

I don’t think so. Referendum 1 is fiscally irresponsible and burdensome for taxpayers. 

This is just one more reason we can’t afford to let it pass at the ballot box on June 4th.  You can learn more about Referendum 1 and other reasons we should be voting it down at noref1.org. 

Colin K Davis is a Park County Taxpayer and Treasurer of NO on Referendum 1.

 

Collin Davis portrait

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