McDermott, Owens, Gasperson comment on Pack budget proposal

Published 11:14 am Thursday, May 26, 2011

Editor’s note: Following are comments provided by Polk County commissioners Renée McDermott, Ted Owens and Ray Gasperson in response to Tom Pack’sbudget proposal.
Renée McDermott: Tom Pack’s budget is an attempt at alchemy, an attempt to make gold out of base metal; but it still doesn’t work. At best, it is fool’s gold. He raids the fund balance, the county’s savings, to pay for one years operating costs. What about next year, and the next? It’s not sustainable.
He guts the planning department’s funds for the comprehensive plan and unified development ordinance (UDO) in attempt to cripple that work. He and Ted Owens want to make Polk County an easier place for housing development, even though we have up to 6,000 approved or in the works lots standing idle. He also cuts planning board funds for attorneys’ fees, further crippling the comprehensive plan and UDO.
Tom’s budget is just plain bad for Polk County.
Another way to describe Tom Pack’s budget is that he is trying to play Santa Claus with the taxpayers’ money. He tries to provide unsustainable gifts for some, especially some of the employees, but there will not be enough tax dollars to continue them next year or after that. Tom draws heavily on the taxpayers’ savings, the fund balance, to pay for this year’s gifts. Then what will happen? With next year being an election year, he knows that his own budget this year would require a tax increase that the fiscally responsible commissioners would have to vote for but Tom would refuse to vote for. He would then blame his own fiscal mess on the responsible majority, right in time for the election.
If the county manager had recommended the same budget Tom Pack has produced, we would have to fire him.

Ted Owens: I’m in full agreement with commissioner Pack’s budget proposal.
(1) Tax cut: His fact about the “Excess w/o FB Appropriation year ending June 30 2010 of $1.4 million” is evidence that the tax rate set after the revaluation was not revenue neutral, but an increase in taxes. Another evidence is with the capital spending that was done and there was still an increase in the fund balance. Therefore, the taxpayer deserves a tax cut.
(2) Keeping the employees insurance deductible at the present $500. We have to understand that the county’s employees pay is not the best. They have not had a raise in almost three years. Raising their deductible is really giving them a pay cut.
(3) Giving some of the employees in the sheriff’s office, jail and animal control and the communication department is essential because of past practices that left these employees out.
I frankly feel we should do more. One of the things I would like to look at is the $35 Landfill Transfer Fee (tax). I think commissioner Pack’s budget is a good start in the right direction.

Ray Gasperson: There are several parts of commissioner Pack’s budget proposal that I find very troubling, such as cutting funding for Lake Adger Dam repair, lowering fuel contingency funding (to cover high gasoline costs for the sheriff’s office, EMS and other essential vehicles) and stopping necessary contracted services in order to achieve the next step of the 20/20 Vision plan. At the same time Pack advocates giving pay increases to a few select county employees, but not to all of the other employees. However, what is most troubling and fiscally irresponsible of Pack’s proposal is his advocacy of giving a very modest property tax cut and funding it by pulling from the county’s savings (fund balance).
I will only vote to approve a budget that is fiscally responsible, sustainable without a tax increase this coming fiscal year (2011-2012) and next (2012-2013), and does not pull from the county’s savings for normal operating expenses for this year and next. Not only does commissioner Pack’s budget proposal fail my standards, its adoption would put Polk County on a very dangerous financial road.

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