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Needs vs. wants: The $40 million choice

The city of Dixon has serious financial needs, which the nearly $40 million recovered in the Crundwell scandal can help alleviate. But some of the people’s wants should receive careful consideration.

Published: Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

What should the city of Dixon do with nearly $40 million recovered from the thievery of ex-Comptroller Rita Crundwell?

It’s all a matter of needs vs. wants.

The city has a bushel basket full of needs, as outlined during Thursday evening’s town hall meeting.

There also are more than a few wants, as suggested by people who attended.

Finance Director Paula Meyer outlined the needs, and they are many.

Meyer provided a detailed list of internal debts and external debts.

She recommended that, from the $38.9 million total raised from the civil settlement and Crundwell’s sold assets, the city must pay internal debts of nearly $8.7 million and invest $14.5 million for future debt payouts.

Meyer also said the city should put $5 million in the general fund reserve, $4 million for the River Street sewer and road, and $2 million for sewer capital projects.

If that money, $34.2 million in all, is thus committed for needs, the city would have $4.7 million remaining, presumably for wants.

Some ideas suggested for other uses of the money: supporting economic development, reducing property taxes, reducing water and sewer bills, supporting recreational activities, renovating Veterans Memorial Pool or building a new swimming pool, and making riverfront improvements.

Other ideas included establishing a program to issue loans to businesses to improve infrastructure so that people with disabilities would be better accommodated.

The list of the city’s needs certainly is extensive. Few people would dispute the appropriateness of the finance director’s recommendations.

Spending money on needs certainly isn’t as fun as spending it on wants.

Our hope is that city officials and residents continue their mature analysis of the city’s financial situation, its needs, and its wants.

Spending most of the money on needs is probably what the city should do and will do.

Yet, that should not preclude a careful review of some of those wants.

The city has been under the microscope for a year and a half now, as Mayor Jim Burke noted. It hasn’t been fun for city officials or residents who have had to slog through the aftermath of the Crundwell scandal.

It would be nice to allocate a little of the money to make a few of those wants come true.

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