Things started off with CIP and CDBG funds. What the hell are those?
CIP funds are Capital Improvement Project funds, and this is money that comes directly from the City of Missoula’s General Fund. This is what that fund looks like for 2015 for expenditures and revenues and where it comes from:
What is that money going to be spent on? Quite a bit will be the Capital Improvement Projects that neighborhood councils choose. And tonight I heard about a couple of these.
On the other hand, CDBG funds come from the federal government. These are Community Development Block Grants and this is almost like free money, since it’s just being tacked onto that $18 trillion national debt.
Both of those funds were discussed tonight, specifically what the money in those funds can be used for. For instance, the Rattlesnake neighborhood council has $3,000 it can spend, it just needs to get its act together. The fact that $3,000 is a year’s worth of taxes for some people doesn’t seem to come into consideration much.
That was the thing that bothered me, this idea of playing around with tax money but not really being accountable for it. Oh, you can argue that there are votes and what not, but this is money that goes from the city to the neighborhood, and they decide what it gets spent on.
And don’t think it’s just $3,000. The Missoula Open Space bond still has $327,000 just sitting there. I’m sorry, but as I said to the five people at the meeting tonight, I’m not going to tell some people that they can’t visit mom and dad in the house they grew up in because high property taxes forced their parents to sell that house and move to Idaho or Washington or wherever.
I was repeatedly told that the City Council is concerned with that, however, and I was also told that it was not proper to debate or ask questions at the meeting I was at tonight. Overall, when I brought up anything about money, or sidewalks or property taxes, I was ignored. I was told these were not issues, even if I asked what they thought of those issues.
But let’s not think about that. After all, we can get that CDBG grant money and have the feds pay for this, whether it’s needed or not. Hell, already Ward 6 City Councilman Ed Childers has contacted Public Works and the City Engineer, Ed Larsen. Things are moving – that money will be spent, regardless of the utility of the project.
No, I’m against using money for things that make voters angry or increase their taxes too much or force them to move out of state or their kids to move out of state. Tonight I felt I was the only one with that concern and that troubled me deeply.
I brought up the idea that some might be concerned with drawing new neighborhood lines, and that some might be concerned about the city gobbling up their county neighborhoods. I was informed this was not a viable concern.
It was made clear that if sewer lines were brought out to a neighborhood, that neighborhood would be annexed into the city. If you have a functioning septic tank, I suppose that just doesn’t come into it – you will be paying new taxes, a lot of new taxes. Again, this troubles me, and it troubles me that this is not seen as a concern.
I made it a point to tell the five people at the meeting tonight that I was a conservative Democrat, and to me that means not wasting money, and what’s more, giving that money back to the people if it has no use. Right now we have a lot of money that has no use, and we’re trying to make a use for it. This is wrong.
Considering that so few people attend meetings, I’m also concerned that so much time (about 10 minutes) was spent discussing the merits of Dominoes Pizza vs. Subway sandwiches vs. Costco cookies. I don’t feel these are the real substantive issues, at least not what I heard from going around the doors this time last year.
I made this known after I originally asked my questions about rising sidewalk costs and rising property taxes. Both of those things were issues that were not on the agenda. In other words, no one wanted to hear about them. Overall, the five members of the council were very frustrated that they were questioned about those issues.
After I brought up those issues the idea of tabling something was discussed. This is the idea that if an issue comes up that you don’t know enough about, or just don’t feel comfortable discussing, you can table it and bring it up again at a later date. Typically those later dates were listed as sometime in the summer.
There was a lot of frustration that public meetings and the ideas they came up with could be shot down on a technicality. That means if someone doesn’t like a stoplight, for instance, they can argue that because they weren’t at the meeting, it can be blocked. Again, these are people that are eager to spend the tax money of others for pet projects – anything that is blocked is a bad thing.
You see a lot of people eager to have a say in how their tax dollars are spent. I don’t pay property taxes, so I shouldn’t care about these issues.
But I do. Tonight I felt I was the only one. That fills me with an overwhelming sense of dread for Missoula and Montana.