Business groups' interest in county's budget process a big plus for taxpayers
Hernando TodayThe issue: Business organizations form focus groups to offer suggestions to cut county budget, improve efficiency.
Published: July 24, 2009
Published: July 24, 2009
Our opinion: If more people got involved in the details of the county's budget process, there'd be more understanding, less wasteful spending.
What a great idea: Get business leaders from throughout the community to form focus groups of three to five people to go over the county's budget, line by line, with each department head.
The mission: To offer recommendations to county commissioners on ways to cut expenses and improve efficiency.
Who came up with this great idea? It grew out of an informal meeting between Randy Woodruff, the president of the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce, and Mike McHugh, the director of the county's Office of Business Development.
The focus groups, made up of members of the chamber, the builders and Realtors associations and Hernando Progress, are scheduled to start next week and present their findings by the end of August, about one month before commissioners formally adopt the 2009-10 budget.
And what do county officials think of this invasion of private-sector business folks going over their budgets with a fine-tooth comb and putting in their two cents?
They embraced the idea.
Imagine, a public/private partnership to examine government spending. Not only will it help better determine where tax dollars are being wasted or how they can be better spent, it will also give those in the private sector a more comprehensive understanding of the budget process and the mandates county government must meet.
We're delighted to see business leaders in our community volunteer to roll up their sleeves, sharpen their pencils and get down to the nitty-gritty of helping to cut the fat out of the 2009-10 county budget. We're excited county officials are embracing the idea and are open to sitting down with business folks to show all their cards.
It should be a valuable learning lesson for both parties and, hopefully, a money-saver for taxpayers.
While we're somewhat frustrated with the county's budget process so far, with plans to use millions in reserve funds to balance next fiscal year's budget instead of making more cuts, we'll be very interested to see how the input of business leaders will have a positive impact on right-sizing county government.
Dipping into reserves to fund government that spends more than it takes in is a bad habit to get into and one that only postpones the pain. Property values continued to plummet this year, so commissioners will be faced with even more difficult decisions to cut the next fiscal year. Propping it up with reserve funds will only make it more difficult for county government to live within its means in the future without raising property taxes. With the economy in the state it's in, no one can afford a tax increase of any kind.
We'd also like to see the focus groups expand their role to constitutional officers, especially the sheriff's department and the supervisor of elections. If all goes well, Woodruff said he would like to expand the focus groups to explore the budgets of the city of Brooksville and the school district as well. We hope they'd also include the embattled Spring Hill Fire Rescue District, which recently decided to implement a tangible tax on businesses to prop up declining property tax revenues. The fire district is in great need of public input, especially from business owners, about how to better manage its expenses.
We'd also like to see business leaders outside the four organizations be included in the process. If this excellent idea is to advance, more business leaders will need to be recruited.
We say the more the merrier and that includes residents getting more involved in the budget process of local government entities and speaking their minds.
It will help ensure local governments are more accountable to the taxpayers.