Pack submits proposed budget with tax refund

Published 11:16 am Thursday, May 26, 2011

McDermott says Pack ‘trying to play Santa Claus’
Polk County Commissioner Tom Pack has submitted his own budget recommendation for fiscal year 2011-12 that includes a tax decrease for residents and raises for some sheriff, jail and communication employees. It also keeps the health insurance deductible for employees at $500.
Commissioner Ted Owens said he agrees with Pack’s proposal, but commissioners Ray Gasperson and Renée McDermott said Pack’s proposal is not sustainable for future years and takes these gifts out of the county’s savings, or fund balance.
Pack said he knew going into the budget process that Polk County does not have a revenue problem. Pack said his budget corrects what he sees as inconsistencies in some employee salaries. For example, he said he doesn’t think people realize that some employees in the sheriff, jail and communication offices are making less than the person who cleans the Womack building.
“I think the justification is easily seen for these changes when you look at the duties these people perform,” Pack said. (See above for Pack’s full narrative on his proposed budget.)
Pack also said although some may argue he is pulling $244,798 out of fund balance to help give taxpayers a tax cut of $300,445, he doesn’t feel that way. He said the county’s proposed budget does not pull capital expenditures from the fund balance, so the county needs to return some of the excess revenue to the taxpayer.
Pack said the county received $1,426,281 in excess revenues last budget year and $1,593,744 the previous year and those excess trends have been the case since 2005.
“I believe that we are overcharging the taxpayers and that is why I show giving the taxpayers a $300,444.60 tax cut,” Pack said.
According to the Polk County Finance Office, one penny in Polk County’s tax rate equals approximately $262,770 in revenue, so Pack’s proposal would mean just over a penny decrease to the county’s current 52 cents per $100 of property valuation.
But commissioner McDermott said Pack’s budget is an attempt at alchemy and doesn’t work. McDermott said Pack is trying to play Santa Claus with the taxpayers’ money by providing unsustainable gifts for some, especially some employees, but there will not be enough revenue to continue those gifts next year or following years.
“Tom draws heavily on the taxpayers’ savings, the fund balance, to pay for this year’s gifts,” McDermott said. “Then what will happen?”
(See above for comments from commissioners McDermott, Owens and Gasperson.)
McDermott also said Pack’s budget will require a tax increase next year, an election year, which she said the fiscally responsible commissioners would have to vote for and Pack would refuse to vote for.
“(Pack) would then blame his own fiscal mess on the responsible majority, right in time for the election,” said McDermott. “If the county manager had recommended the same budget Tom Pack has produced, we would have to fire him.”
Commissioners have not yet publicly discussed Pack’s budget recommendation. The county meets again on Monday, June 6 at the Saluda Library. A budget workshop will be at 6 p.m. and the regular meeting at 7 p.m.
The county manager’s budget proposal includes no tax increases or decreases, no employee salary increases and an increase in employee insurance deductibles from $500 to $1,000 a month beginning Jan. 1, 2012, as well as copay increases.
The county plans to hold a public hearing on the proposed budget on June 13 and adopt the budget on June 20. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

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