The August 7th primary election is less than a month away.
The issue of whether or not the people of Lyon County will approve the merger of our local extension with the Frontier district is on the ballot. Thanks to all those who petitioned, we get to decide. I’m one of the many Lyon Countians who is against the merger. I’m going to vote “NO!”
The lines in the debate have been drawn. I’ve read the pro merger literature and I’ve seen nothing that convinces me to change my vote. The more I see, the more I’m convinced that this merger isn’t a good idea.
It’s not a good idea for many reasons.
First, an approved merger will give the new district independent, unlimited taxing authority over the people of Lyon County. Merger proponents don’t like to hear that, but facts are facts.
What would that mean for Lyon County? Lyon County currently provides a $223,900 budget allocation to our local extension. The merger would increase our contribution to the merged district by 36.5%. That’s an increase of about $82,000 over our current contribution. Then, when motor vehicle taxes are factored in, Lyon County’s contribution increases by $123,000 over our current provision. That’s an increase of 54.9%!
If the merger is approved, Lyon County would be providing 40.8% of the total extension district’s support.
Merger proponents have claimed that the history of extension districts has demonstrated that mill levies have “almost always” gone done once the merger is approved. That’s not true. Based on the actual history, there are about as many districts where the levy has gone up as have gone down. The Meadowlark district levy has increased by 22.25% since 2006. River Valley’s has increased by 22.55% during the same time frame. Sunflower district’s have increased by 15.51% since 2007. Based on the Meadowlark district’s history, the individual taxpayer in Lyon County could easily expect an increase of 67% in his or her contribution to extension.
Merger proponents have claimed that any increase to the taxpayer wouldn’t amount to much. I think people know better. The increase would mean that Lyon Countians would have less disposable income, a cart or two of groceries, a couple of trips to the Flint Hill Cinema, a few meals out after a long, hard week of labor, or plants purchased at the annual garden show or a local business. For a small business struggling to compete, it would compound the struggle by a factor of over 2. Merger proponents say the increase wouldn’t amount to much. The truth is, it’s like telling the frog plunked in a pan of warm water that the flames under the pot aren’t going to hurt him.
Merger proponents say they will create efficiencies and economies of scale. Not true! Economies of scale drive costs down, not up, and the merger, based on their numbers will increase the costs of extension by 54.9% at startup! In an economy of scale, manpower requirements would decrease. Merger proponents haven’t shown us there will be any decreases in manpower. The truth is, there are no economies of scale to be created here.
Merger proponents have told us what this is about. Dale Fjell told us it’s “another way to generate income.” Brian Creager told us “we set OUR mill levy.” A few weeks ago, Mr. Creager said the merger was necessary so that they wouldn’t have to operate at the “WHIM” of Lyon County.
This merger has nothing to do with efficiencies and economies of scale. It has everything to do with money and independent, unlimited taxing authority.
Some merger proponents have said we are against extension. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have no personal axes to grind. We are simply against the merger. We believe that the best course of action is for extension to continue submitting its budget requests to the Lyon County Commission and allow the commissioners to make prioritized decisions on our behalf. Right now, for example, Newman Regional Health is requesting a 2 mill allocation to purchase an MRI machine. The County Library is requesting a 5% increase to cover revenue shortfalls at the state level. County departments all have needs. Extension’s requested “need” should be weighed in that light, not independent of it.
Is extension operating at the “whim” of Lyon County? Absolutely not! We’ve been generous. Since 2006, our allocation to extension has increased by 7.41%. For extension, that has meant an increase of over 10% in expenditures for wages and an increase of 20% in benefits. Overall, Lyon County provides 72% of extension’s budgeted revenue.
A no vote on August 7th wouldn’t change that generosity.
It’s time to say no! It’s time tell merger proponents that their “it’s only a little bit” strategy is a dog that won’t hunt. It’s time to say you’re not going to continue to be the slow boiled frog. I encourage everyone in Lyon County to vote no on the extension merger. You can do that early at the courthouse or you can do it on August 7th at your precinct polling place. It’s important that you vote and it’s really important that you vote NO!