Time to make tough decisions
Published: July 15, 2010
Published: July 15, 2010
Any county commissioner who votes for the proposed mill levy "roll-up" their budget director is proposing might as well kiss their seat on the commission goodbye.
Taxpayer and voters are sick of government excess and waste. They have been living with a bad economy for some time and view government bureaucrats and employees as some sort of protected class.
Even if that were true, those days are long gone.
Commissioners need to understand it's their responsibility to ensure county government lives within the means of its taxpayers, not within the wants of government. Right now, most of those taxpayers are living with less - many a lot less. That means government must learn to live with less while doing more to maintain services.
That's the reality - more with less - get used to it.
If that means reducing the ranks of managers and rank-and-file workers, then that's the decision that must be made. Adding a bunch of penny-ante fees on top of folks who can't afford them is simply a way to raise taxes or cut services because residents can't contribute.
We understand the county commission's budget has taken huge revenue hits and that jobs have not been filled and others eliminated. We understand more needs to be cut in order to fill a budget hole that's already had $4.5 million in reserves and library funds dumped into it. We understand it's tough to lay off good people and put their work on the shoulders of those who remain.
We had to do it in the private sector. Now it's government's turn.
What commissioners need to understand is it's only going to get worse. The economy likely won't begin to grow here for at least another year or more. County government is funded with property tax dollars that are assessed on property values a year in arrears.
Even a year after the economy starts improving, the housing construction industry begins to come back to life and property values begin to climb, county government will be a year behind.
If commissioners don't cut now, they will find themselves in a deeper hole next year and the year after that.
That's why it's imperative that commissioners take a closer look at the constitutional officers' budgets, find where more cuts can be made and demand that constitutionals do their part to reduce government spending. That includes public safety, where enormous amounts of money have been spent in recent years as pay and benefits have skyrocketed out of control.
County employees get 12 holidays each year. That's ridiculous.
Take away the free vehicles.
Cut hours. Add furlough days.
Reduce overly generous employee benefits.
Look at a private company in Hernando County that's doing a good job of surviving this economy and implement the same kinds of policies and cost-savings measures.
It's not rocket science. When you don't have as much to spend, you can't spend as much. It's simple really. And the taxpayers and residents of Hernando County don't have any more to give. They're tapped out. It's been tough.
Now commissioners have to make some tough decisions. It's a requirement of leadership. If the job's too tough, vote for a mill levy hike to fix the problems.
Somebody else will have to make the tough decisions after the next election.