By Joe Julius, Mayor, City of Elko New Market
I’ve served on the Elko New Market City Council since 2014 and have heard many comments from residents and businesses on economic development. Most have been excited about the prospect of growing our city, but some are skeptical of what the development could mean.
Many of us moved to this area for similar reasons. We like the small-town feel, and we like seeing stars at night. We like the feeling that there’s a safe, quiet, and neighborly community to come home to at the end of each day where we can choose to seclude ourselves without being bothered, enjoy conversations with neighbors while kids play, or anything else we can think of.
Some people are concerned that city growth will put these aspects in jeopardy. So, the question becomes, why should we jeopardize the familiar for something that’s unclear?
First of all, business is an important community-building asset to this area. Throughout the year business owners and organizations hold events that build rapport. The Elko New Market Chamber of Commerce does a lot for the area without calling attention to all their work. Chamber members bring us the annual Golf Tournament, Ladies Night Out, Shop with a Cop, Candidate Forums, State of the City, the annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, and other events.
While not everyone participates in these activities, I believe people appreciate them. The Chamber organizes and staffs these events with business member volunteers. Local businesses/entities such as Firehouse Grille, Elko Speedway, New Market Bank, Tim Sandusky Insurance Agency, and many others, volunteer resources and make monetary donations to help our community stay strong.
In return, the Chamber doesn’t ask anything but hopes that businesses and residents alike, utilize local businesses and Chamber members whenever possible. In other words, the return the community gets by having local businesses participate in the Chamber of Commerce is infinite. If we support our local businesses, they support us. To me, these actions reflect our community better than any of my words could describe.
Second, as the expression goes, if you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward. We need more businesses in the area because it will help to reduce the fiscal impact on individual taxpayers. The cost of living in Elko New Market is higher than I’d like it to be. We’ve all, at one point or another, looked at our property tax or water bills and felt frustration. The math on why these bills go up is simple. Inflation alone causes expenditures to increase, regardless of our desire to cut spending and keep taxes down while revenues are dependent primarily on taxpayers like you and me. If we don’t add taxpayers, we as a city have to either a) cut resources, b) scale back necessary improvements, or c) increase taxes at rates much higher than we’d like.
Cutting resources could mean reducing municipal employees, which translates to reduced safety, longer delays in roads getting plowed, inefficient customer service at City Hall, etc. Any way you slice it, any meaningful impact would be felt and would take away from aspects most of us appreciate about our city. Scaling back necessary improvements means kicking the can down the road on public safety and infrastructure. The costs of these improvements increase annually so not only does delaying them potentially take away from things we appreciate about this area, but also can be irresponsible financial management. Trust me when I say, we’ve responsibly delayed as much as we can over the last several years as we’ve waited for development to share these costs. No one wants to see 10-20% increases each year to property taxes and water bills.
The reality is, we’re dependent on economic growth in one way or another. Whether it’s a necessary function of responsibly keeping costs under control or a matter of supporting those that help make our community great, we need our city to grow. Adding new homes further spreads the cost burden and is a benefit in attracting more businesses. Adding more businesses not just adds to the amenities of our city and reduces cost burdens, but also, they also support the organizations – such as N.E.W LIONS and the Chamber – that give back to the community.
While growth is a necessity, City Council and City staff will take the necessary steps to manage it in a way that supports our community values. We do this through zoning, transparency, and most importantly, communication with residents and businesses. The more we hear from you, the better job we can do in shaping the city to reflect the vision you would like to see.