It’s hard to say what county commissioners were thinking when they set a public meeting on a bare-bones proposal that would have asked voters to approve yet another sales tax increase.

They are to be thanked for ultimately doing the right thing — strangling in its infancy an ill-conceived idea — even if some constituents are dissecting their motives and were correct to question what was going on.

Now, the county needs to come together with the city and show true leadership.

Commissioners elected last week after much ballyhoo not to proceed with reserving a spot on the ballot for a 0.25-percent sales tax hike to benefit municipal public safety. 

They said that even such a “placeholder” would not have necessarily led to an actual ballot question, but would have allowed discussions on one to begin. They were involved because the entire county would have voted on the sales tax, had it actually made it to ballot. 

The discussion arose because of funding demands on an existing 0.75-percent public safety tax — only 30 percent of that tax’s revenues can go to public safety entities other than the sheriff’s office, and even that is not a given.

That doesn’t leave a lot for the other entities, including municipalities within the county.

But taxpayers are tapped out and, as vital as public safety is, the 0.25-percent increase was being rushed. Not even its supposed beneficiaries, such as the Town of Olathe and the City of Montrose, favored the idea.

The existing public safety sales tax, and a companion 1-percent use tax to benefit Montrose County Road and Bridge, took 18 months of planning by the Montrose Citizens for Funding Our Future (MC4FF) before it was ever floated as a possible ballot question.

Such preparatory work seems to have been missing here. 

Also missing: communication and clarity. Everyone seemed to have a scapegoat for last week’s fiasco; no one really had a clear answer about the genesis of this failed proposal. 

Regardless the origin and regardless the merit of the dead-on-arrival 0.25-percent tax hike, we have some really big issues in front of us as a citizenry. 

How will we come together to decide the priorities if new taxes and levies are truly needed for vital things like good education, public libraries, community clinics, good roads, good police protection and all the other things we cherish here?

The public has a right to expect the commissioners and city councilors to provide leadership in these areas.

We won’t get to that much-needed consensus with charades like the one last week. It’s time for the elected leadership to be on the same page regarding key matters like economic development so that we have jobs, sales tax revenue and a citizenry that has enough confidence in elected officials to accept that they have laid out sound plans for making this area truly prosperous again. 

Then tax increases may get voter approval.

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