It’s a question I increasingly wonder about: Nevada City is one of the smallest incorporated cities in the state, at about 3,000 people.
I value living in an incorporated city, compared with the challenges of living in the rest of 95959 (sewage woes at Cascade Shores, for example).
But the long-term trend for us at three-digit addresses in NC raises concerns:
•Flat to declining population in an economic “cul de sac.” In addition, a lot of people don’t earn much — and, in turn, generate enough tax revenue. The pot of money needed for police, fire, sewer and City Hall is getting smaller, not bigger.
•Public safety. Our police force is costly — and not always as tightly run and effective as it should be. At some point, you have to consider cutting a deal with the county Sheriff’s Office instead.
•Fire protection. Nevada City Fire Department does a great job, but we greatly depend on other fire-fighting agencies for emergency calls as well. Is this cost effective?
•The cost of retiring/hiring government workers. The city manager, police chief, city engineer, public works director, among others, all are nearing retirement. We share the burden of their retirement costs, as well as finding the money to hire their replacements at competitive wages.
The No. 1 problem the city faces is a declining tax base to pay for the growing cost of government. We also face some divisive “cultural” issues: people who try to “hijack” the city to further their own personal or political agendas but are not true stakeholders.
We face some tough choices down the road. We need to diversify our economy: attracting more families and creating more higher-paying jobs. We also need to separate the people who “use” Nevada City from the true stakeholders who really care about its future.
It’s time to buckle down, become more introspective and work together. Can we?