Wellsville council must keep its promise on income tax split

The village of Wellsville is in a desperate situation. It needs to get out of fiscal emergency and it needs to do so quickly. But council members should be careful to not sacrifice their credibility in the process.

Last November, the village asked voters to reach deeper into their pockets and help the village out by paying more income tax — 1/2 percent more.

In return, voters were promised the revenue generated by the tax increase — estimated to be $168,000 — would be divided equally between funding the police department and resurfacing village streets.

Anyone who does any driving in Wellsville knows that the streets are in horrendous condition, so the street resurfacing promise was probably what drew most of the support for the tax increase.

Voters responded by passing the tax increase by a narrow margin — 299 to 267. But now, a little more than two months after collection of the tax increase began, council is, as Councilwoman Karen Dash stated, trying to pull “a classic political bait and switch.”

Instead of dividing the revenue evenly — as promised — council wants to change the distribution to 75 percent for the police department and 25 percent for street resurfacing.

Mayor Nancy Murray said the state auditor’s and state treasurer’s offices recommended changing the distribution to help the village get out of fiscal emergency within five years. The police department is paid from the general fund, which has the largest deficit — $130,000.

Councilman John Morrow pointed out that the fund distribution can be changed at any time at council’s discretion. Maybe so, but at what cost?

Fortunately council opted to pass the measure only on first reading rather than suspending rules and fully enacting it. It passed by a vote of 4-2 with both Dash and Councilwoman Rosie Gibson voting against it.

This gives voters the opportunity to come to the next council meeting, scheduled for March 20, to let council know how they feel about the change.

Councilman Randy Allmon said, “the benefits from this, to me, outweigh anything.” Anything? Even your credibility with voters?

Voters have long memories and council members may be very disappointed the next time they ask for more money or seek re-election if they fail to keep their promises.