County commissioners need concrete plan to cut spending
Hernando TodayThe issue: County department head salary study.
Published: December 18, 2010
Published: December 18, 2010
Our opinion: Another waste of tax dollars that shows commissioners waning in their support of county administrator.
Hernando County commissioners are facing a $7 million budget hole. What are they doing about it? Not much that we can see.
To his credit County Administrator David Hamilton has been trying to reduce costs. His latest efforts to better streamline county government and cut expenses fell on deaf ears during last Tuesday's commission meeting when Hamilton presented a recently completed salary study of Hernando County department heads.
The $5,000 study showed that two department heads - Susan Goebel and Jean Rags - merited much higher salaries because of their increased management responsibilities, and two others - Mike McHugh and George Zoettlein - deserved to be paid thousands less.
What kind of nonsense is this?
First of all, even if the study has validity, why pay $5,000 for something that county staff should have done? An outsider doesn't need to come into Hernando County and tell us who should be paid what. If department heads don't like their salary, feel they aren't paid enough for increased responsibilities or haven't been given raises for whatever reason, they can continue to enjoy their job or find work elsewhere.
It's that simple.
Secondly, just because we had a study done, why hand out raises? We can't afford it. We should have a salary and hiring freeze. Period. Remember the county's REVENUE IS FALLING. If someone leaves, split the work up and give it to other employees and save the salary of the person who left.
Third, why demote and then cut the pay of two department heads and expect everything to be hunky-dory? If they aren't doing an adequate job, write them up and eventually fire them if their performance doesn't improve.
To cut their pay only serves to create a negative environment whereby the demoted employee's production suffers and the culture of the organization declines.
Hamilton might as well be asking McHugh and Zoettlein to look for work elsewhere, which they may be doing.
If McHugh and Zoettlein are doing their jobs well, why would you want to cut their pay? Give them more work and responsibility to make them more productive.
That's how the private sector works.
The problem is that commissioners have not had the political will to support Hamilton's previous cost-cutting plans so he has resorted to another reorganization plan to accomplish his goals, validated by a third-party study.
Unfortunately this plan won't work. We need a simpler plan, and commissioners need to understand there's no more money to be allocated. We should not spend our limited reserves or hike fees and taxes. Taxpayers don't have the money to pay them.
When budgets get tight, we need to reduce expenses, top performers get more responsibility - more work. Slackers - those not pulling their own weight in the organization - are identified and changes made.
That's how government needs to operate. Here's how much money we expect to take in to operate, so here's the best plan on how to get the most out of that revenue to provide the highest quality and most needed services to the taxpayers - the customers.
We believe that's what Hamilton has wanted to do, and he has done a lot as employees have retired. Commissioners need to step up and support serious and needed expense reductions.
Commissioners need to set a policy to balance the county's budget without any tax or fee increases. They need to direct their CEO, Hamilton, to come up with concrete plans to meet that goal.
There should be no more talk of salary studies or raises. Identify the top performers in county government, give them more responsibility (they're lucky to have such high paying jobs with terrific benefits that most in the private sector lack) and get rid of the slackers and unnecessary programs to cut the spending. With a 13 percent unemployment rate in Hernando County and so many people out of work around the state and the nation, it should be easy to find top-flight department managers, if necessary, to help lead Hernando County out of its financial mess.
This will make Hernando County government leaner and better suited to meet the needs of its constituents.
Even if the economy in Hernando County improved dramatically tomorrow, it would take two years before county government would see most of those benefits.
Those in power need to remember these lean days, so the outrageous growth of government spending is tempered once good times return.