Mon, Feb. 17

Commentary: Cottonwood a mighty charitable town – with your tax dollars

Jesus Christ is credited with the old saying that it is better to give than receive.

It’s an adage that has stood the test of time: There’s no better feeling than sharing your wealth – or at least a few bucks if it’s all you can spare -- to lighten the load of someone who needs it a lot more than you do.

It’s your money. It’s your choice. It’s your personal reward to experience the joy of helping a person in need.

Come April 15th every year, it can even be your own personal tax deduction.

It’s a feeling the folks on the Cottonwood City Council know all too well. A big part of their job is to be charitable.

There is a difference, of course; they get to be charitable with your money.

The new city budget that received tentative approval last week includes $373,880 in charitable contributions to various non-profit organizations in the Verde Valley.

In some instances, the city’s charitable giving – taken from you in the form of taxation – is justified as assistance to “a core or mandatory service on behalf of the city that the city otherwise would have to provide.” A classic case in point is the $43,880 the city provides to the Verde Valley Humane Society. Such services are mandated by state law, and in this instance the city is getting off cheap having a non-profit fulfill this obligation.

Likewise, it’s hard to argue with the city’s $55,000 contribution to the Verde Valley Senior Center. The Senior Center’s Meals on Wheels program is not a mandate of state law, but it surely should be considered “a core or mandatory service” of every community in America.

Some of the city’s other charitable giving is open to interpretation. The $20,000 the city provides to the Old Town Center for the Arts would be considered by arts aficionados as being a “core or mandatory service.” OTCA surely has enhanced our community, but there are those who will argue that concerts hardly should be considered “core and mandatory” to a community’s well-being. Ditto for the Birding Festival, which gets $2,000 a year from the city. Is it “core and mandatory” or important only to a select audience?

Some of Cottonwood’s charitable giving is justified as an investment into the city’s revenue flow: $213,000 for the Chamber of Commerce and $10,000 to the Old Town Association. No doubt, there is value in those organizations.

In addition, the city sets aside $15,000 every year to give to various organizations so they can put on community events. Case in point was Tuesday night’s decision by the City Council to donate use of the Rec Center and pay the set-up costs for the Steps to Recovery Homes’ second annual Erase the Stigma Educational and Awareness Day at the Cottonwood Recreation Center June 24. No doubt, Steps to Recovery provides an important service to our community, but helping people find the road to sobriety has become a competitive business in today’s world. City officials need to question the propriety of picking up the tab for someone’s personal business interests.

The same night, the city council reached into your wallet to give the District 8 American Legion Riders $200 for a picnic and barbecue. How can you say no to a picnic and barbecue? It’s un-American.

The problem with all this charity is where does the city draw the line?

If Steps to Recovery can get into the city’s pocket, isn’t Manzanita Outreach, for example, just as deserving with its annual Kids Against Hunger food-packaging event? Or how about the Verde Valley Sanctuary, House of Ruth, Verde Valley Mental Health Coalition, Big Brother/Big Sisters, the Old Town Mission, or Habitat for Humanity?

If the American Legion Riders can get $200 for a picnic and barbecue, shouldn’t the city council be throwing money at every group in town that waves the Red, White and Blue and loves apple pie?

Just how deep do the city’s pockets go?

An even more important question is how deep should they go?

Crucial to City Council benevolence needs to be a realization of whose money the city is being so charitable with. City government does not generate money, nor does it earn it the way you do.

Rather, the city’s money is taken from you. Some people call that thievery. Others call it taxation. Many consider it one and the same.

When you are elected to the Cottonwood City Council, it’s mighty easy to suddenly become charitable.

Especially when it’s your money they are giving away.

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