GH County Commission: GordWilliSonCartWel Chickens Coming Home to Roost

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If you’ve ever wondered how conservatives differ from liberals, check out their approach to spending other people’s dough. Like county budgets.

Two of three county commissioners presented budget proposals on Monday outlining possible cuts, trims and reductions in an effort to solve the county’s budget woes; another proposed putting a sales tax increase on the ballot. The county is hemorrhaging red ink to the tune of about $2.5M.

Commissioner Wes Cormier presented proposed reductions to the county general fund including trims to various departments and savings through attrition, early retirement and departmental consolidation. The total projected savings is $1.2 million.

Commissioner Vickie Raines’ presentation included trims in 15 of 20+ departments ranging from $1,526 in the WSU Extension program to $70,000 in building and planning to $523,000 to the sheriff and jail (the latter is the single largest line item in the county budget). Raines’ proposal also included reductions in the commissioner’s office ($30K), the assessor’s office ($65K), treasurer’s office ($40K) and the district and superior courts ($60K each). Raines’ proposed trims represent a net savings to the overall general fund budget of about $1.12M.

It’s a start, but it’s still less than $2.5M-ish. Of course, if you’re a member of a public labor union, you don’t care because the public doesn’t have a right to know what you’re getting when it comes to helping yourself to the taxpayer’s dime. More on that later.

Anyway, Commissioner Frank Gordon’s solution to county budget woes is to let voters decide via the ballot. He proposed a three-tenths of (3/10) one percent (1%) sales tax increase ballot proposal.

Gordon said he talked to several city leaders and police chiefs and has support for his proposal. He wants voters to decide. “If the voters go for this, it would definitely help us” he said, noting that the increase would not be permanent. He suggested a “sunset clause.”

Said Gordon, “It’s tough times.” He wants to “give people an option to help keep the economy functioning until some of the other proposed cuts help us make the turn.”

I read through Gordon’s proposal four times. If there are any cuts or reductions proposed, they’re darn well camouflaged.

Raines countered that the county’s budget issues can’t be solved by continually raising taxes to pay for over-spending. “Truthfully, we’re spending well beyond our means,” she said. “We can’t go out and raise taxes every time we’re in a bind.” (Wow. What a concept.) Raines reminded the commission about the recent sales tax increase for the transit board. She added, “I have a hard time raising taxes on our folks during these (tough) times.”

The Gordon Tax Increase

Gordon said the board would not be “imposing” a tax, and that the revenue would go toward public safety. “It’s the people’s choice” he said. “We can give people the facts and let them decide. It’s a decision for the voters and that’s what I’m asking for.” Gordon said the four mayors he’s talked to are “completely behind it.”

Raines responded that the board would be “hard pressed” to get the money needed to place the proposal on this summer’s ballot, fund voter education and get all nine mayors behind the Gordon Tax Increase. She said the last two years have been about “increase, increase, increase, hire, hire, hire,” – by 2 to 1 votes. (Gordon and former Commissioner Herb Welch approved truck loads of increased spending and new hires. Commissioner Wes Cormier was the lone dissenting voice crying in the wilderness.)

Darned if them GordWilliSonCartWel chickens are comin’ home to roost.

The county may collect about $1.6M under the Gordon Tax Increase; cities would split about $1M. “This gives us some breathing room,” he said.

To which we can only ask: To Do What? And how does this solve anything?

I’m with The Rainester on this one. What say you?