Commissioners should follow administrator's lead
Hernando TodayCommissioners should follow administrator's lead
Published: June 26, 2010
Published: June 26, 2010
The issue: County administrator wants to cut management positions, bloated salaries.
Our opinion: It's about time.
Too many overpaid chiefs and not enough front-line workers.
That's how Hernando County Administrator David Hamilton views his budget director's latest plan to cut $9.2 million out of next year's budget.
And, as most observers of county government would concur, Hamilton is absolutely correct.
Yet Budget Director George Zoettlein wants to cut 47 front-line positions to help fill an expected $10.4 million revenue shortfall.
So, under Zoettlein's plan, the managers will have fewer people to manage and services to taxpayers would be cut?
That's directly opposed to Hamilton's philosophy of "more management, less managers."
"This is a glaring, gaping hole," he said of Zoettlein's budget-cutting proposals.
For example, Hamilton noted, Zoettlein's plan calls for closing parks and ending most of the recreation programs, yet his budget proposes the same number of managers for the parks and recreation department while chopping 17 low-level positions.
"This is ludicrous and yet we allow it to continue," Hamilton said during Wednesday's budget workshop.
In other words, the budget director's plan isn't going to fly with his boss.
Instead, Hamilton told county commissioners that he will provide a full report on a realignment of county government and his recommendations in August.
That reorganizational plan will include only three levels of managers: division director, department manager and supervisor.
"We also need to look at redistribution of costs within our highest level of pay," Hamilton added.
In other words, bloated salaries will be pared down to more realistic levels.
What's even more ludicrous was a statement by County Attorney Garth Coller. Zoettlein's proposed budget calls for axing $128,000 out of the county attorney's office, which includes getting rid of one of Coller's three assistant county attorneys.
Coller said that would be impossible, considering his office's ever-increasing workload. Instead, Coller said he would be willing to take a month's furlough and forgo his salary during that period.
If Coller can take off a month without pay, then his office isn't that busy. Maybe commissioners should contract out all of the county's legal work to see whether it can save money. It seems like whenever any dicey legal issues arise, the county farms out the work to a private-sector attorney anyway - at additional taxpayer expense.
Now may be a good time to farm it all out.
On Thursday, Zoettlein tried to spin a mill levy "roll-up" as a way to increase property tax revenues without, what he called, "actually raising taxes."
Does our budget director think Hernando Countians don't know what a tax increase is?
If a tax-roll up would "increase" property tax revenues, then it's a "tax increase." This kind of smoke and mirrors spin is simply a desperate attempt to keep from having to make county government live within its means.
For the first time in a long time, many property owners actually have the chance to see a reduction in their exorbitant property taxes. With so many upside down on their mortgages in this tough economy, it would be a welcome relief.
However, if commissioners raise the mill levy, which actually does mean a "tax increase," it will put more of the burden on beleaguered property owners.
Any commissioner that votes in favor of a millage rate roll-up would be voting for a tax increase on every property owner.
They'd also probably be voting themselves out of office.
Commissioners need to make the tough decisions necessary to cut the bloated county government they helped create.
Last year, they failed to follow their administrator's cost-cutting plan. This year, they should be wiser.