Letter: ‘Relook’ at the county budgetHank Long’s article on the Washington County Board’s approval of a 4.9 percent increase in the property tax levy shows the problem with government, local, state or federal.
By: Lee Wells, Woodbury Bulletin
Hank Long’s article on the Washington County Board’s approval of a 4.9 percent increase in the property tax levy (plus one percent for the land and water program,) shows the problem with government, local, state or federal.
When a board votes to increase levies without regard to sound fiscal policy, we pay, we pay, and we pay.
There are several key principles that the board ought to be following, but apparently are not:
1. Each yearly budget submission should be zero-based, not “last year plus.” There is no assurance that last year’s budget was appropriate, and each department head should be able to justify each dollar requested, with a benefit statement, and the board should consider approving only needed requests, not desired requests.
2. Each program should be reviewed each year with dual objectives:
a. Cancel or revise programs that are not cost-effective, nor absolutely essential.
b. Look for cheaper ways to obtain the same desired outcome. Commissioner Pulkrabek appears to be the only one who actually looked at the budget line items.
3. An increase should not be approved because it’s “reasonable” or because department heads and staff “did their homework.”
4. Decision by committee (budget workshops) tend to be a way to compromise through to budget without zero basing, and commissioners should not have to bring forward cuts. The principle should be no increase, and rather than ask commissioners to “bring cuts”, the departments should have to justify increases to the board.
5. The current environment of diminishing tax revenue (decreased house evaluations, delinquent taxes, homeowners in financial stress because of energy costs) should have been a sign to the board that things should not be as normal, with yearly increases accepted, because it’s the easy thing to do.
6. I applaud Commissioner Pulkrabek for attempting to apply sound management techniques to this process.
Asking for smaller (at least no bigger) government without specifics gets nothing….he offers specifics and is told, by Commssioner Kriesel, “county commissioners had ample time to bring forward any cuts they wanted to propose during the budget workshop process….”. Seems pretty self-serving to me.
In any case, I urge the commissioners to relook at the budget prior to Dec. 9, and find a way to protect the taxpayers, for a change, as opposed to protecting the bureaucracy.