U turn

Published 11:34 pm Tuesday, May 28, 2013

To the editor:
Over the previous four years as a county commissioner, I have been a strong supporter of each annual budget (2009-12).
These budgets were a reflection of my own core political principles that local government should be limited yet properly financed and effectively run. And at all times, department heads should demonstrate fiscal restraint, especially when predicting anticipated revenues.
This approach proved very effective through the “Great Recession” by providing fiscal stability, effective services to our citizens, along with a healthy fund balance (the Rainy Day Fund).
During the current annual budget process, my fellow commissioners have decided to abandon the proven “conservative fiscal” approach of the past four years. Their means of achieving a balanced budget, simply put, is first: a far more optimistic approach toward anticipated revenues.
Second: taking $435,000 out of the budget requested by department heads for capital expense items, such as cars, ambulance, computer equipment, etc. and declaring that these items should not be included in the annual budget (as they have been in the past). Instead we’ll just pay for these items directly from the county’s saving account, the Rainy Day Fund.
Third, after several years of declines in the number of county employees (the number of full time equivalent in 2009 was 174.4 and in 2012 down to 170.5 employees), the current proposed budget includes four additional full-time employees.
This change from conservative to expansionary fiscal policy may be fine except for one critical factor:  when the decision is made to expand local government, you don’t give a token tax cut. Rather my fellow commissioners should act honestly and find the means to cover their increased spending.
They should not play a shell game with the taxpayer’s money.
– Ray Gasperson, Polk County Commissioner

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