A Budget That Won’t Budge

Life as a drunken sailor…

I used to say that our politicians spend our money like a drunken sailor; but that would be an insult to all drunken sailors, because at least a drunken sailor stops buying drinks when he runs out of money.  Our Hall County commissioners are in big trouble.  We know that our revenue situation is in trouble (see Three weeks).  Perhaps the situation is as bad as 20% down.

When you look at what our property taxes support, you have to ask: where can you cut 20%?

Expenses

2011 Budget

2012 (Minus 20%)

General government

$15,966,837

$12,763,470

Judicial

$14,709,168

$11,757,334

Public health & welfare

$2,786,952

$2,219,562

Public safety

$42,821,715

$34,247,372

Public works

$5,417,330

$4,323,864

Recreation & culture

$5,190,012

$4,142,010

Housing and development

$2,429,580

$1,943,664

Agencies

$720,802

$576,642

Principal & Interest

$383,480

$383,480

$90,425,876

$72,357,397

I mean, if we are down 20%, the commissioners have to cut $18 million!  Sure, cutting the number looks easy, but what does it really mean?  Can the judicial system take the $3m hit?  I doubt it.  What about the Sheriff and EMS at almost$8m? I don’t see it.  The commissioners could stop repairing roads and eliminate Parks and Leisure, but that would still leave us $8m short.

This has been a situation brewing for awhile.  So who are we to blame?  President Bush?  Commissioner Lutz?  Someone has to be responsible for this, right?  I think it is a combination of the poor leadership on the commission for the past couple of years along with the tax assessors board.  If the tax assessors board had been making the proper modifications to the digest the last 4 years, the commissioners and staff could have managed the budget in a reasonable way.  If the commissioners and staff had done something other than put their heads in the sand, they could have bankrolled the money that tax assessors refused to roll back to help ease the pain.

I read that Commissioners Gibbs (read his take here)and Lutz (and his here)have made commitments not to raise the millage rate.  That is two votes against.  We will have to see if the others go for an increase, if Gibbs or Lutz folds or if there will be a fire sale slashing of the budget.  Any option will be a no win scenario.  A tax increase will be the kiss of death and slashing the budget will be seen as extreme and unpopular.

What is the solution?  Does ANYBODY know?

Hugh Hall County Akston

  2 comments for “A Budget That Won’t Budge

  1. George T
    March 28, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    I know that I want to be taxed fairly and I want a small government.

  2. Johnboy
    March 28, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Yes. But, you have to face your options with open eyes.

    You can either raise taxes and create and certain death spiral of revenue as the economy fails even further.

    You can cut all areas by 20% ($18 million). You frame the question in a way that makes the question of cuts as something we can never ever accomplish. You take 62% of the budget off the table when you completely remove judicial and public service. You can not do that and have an honest discussion.

    That is what is happening in DC now with our budget. They take defense and entitlements off the table. That way when you cut other areas it appears your cutting to the bone and making significant sacrifices and can make little headway.

    Baseline budgeting for each department. You have to prioritize based upon the core responsibility of the department. Once you have priorities of the department clearly defined then you start at the bottom of the list and move up until you start affect the core responsibility of the department. You have to be honest with yourself and not create artificial justification when doing this. It is like your household budget. You can say, I have a bad back and sure do like to have that lawn service. I need to keep it our I can end up in the hospital.

    For public safety, which is more important to Hall County a 911 operator or a pimped out police car with the words DARE on the side.

    That is how you start making you way to 20%. Not by The commissioners could stop repairing roads and eliminate Parks and Leisure, but that would still leave us $8m short. Be honest.

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