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Budget love fest can't hide the facts

June 02, 2007

To the editor:

Congratulations on the first annual organized love fest - better known as the yearly Washington County budget presentation. I do not know if this love fest was organized by the commissioners acting as a group or acting on their own, or by unnamed appointed public officials. But it almost came off without a hitch.

It is too bad that someone couldn't have thought of a way to silence those three lonely individuals who, unaware of the proper protocol for this meeting, actually asked for more money for their favorite programs.

I did not speak at this meeting because I gave my word that I would only be an observer this year. I would like to make a few comments for the record during the allowable comment period.

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First, I note that the property tax rate will not decrease despite the increase in assessments and the increase in property taxes. Too bad. It appears that there is no difference between tax-and-spend Democrats and tax-and-spend Republicans except the name of the party. Please try real hard to squeeze out a little reduction in the tax rate.

Second, I note that the chart on page three shows a 2.2 percent tax rebate. I am not surprised that this tax rebate was deliberately not mentioned in the brief discussion of the budget. Neither am I surprised that no one in this county's government advised the residents of the county that last year's property tax rebate was taxable income if the residents had itemized their deductions on their income tax forms.

It appears that the commissioners are starting very early in their campaigns to get re-elected by giving a select group of residents some of their money back each year and, by their silence, are complicit in encouraging residents to underpay their income taxes. Now that is something that this county government can really be proud of.

Third, I note that only the minimum required by law, $400,000, is budgeted for agricultural land preservation. As you well know, that is less than 0.13 percent of total county revenues and exactly $173,780 less than its budget for the nonprofit Commission on Aging. It is my opinion that if it had not been for the state legislature, no county funds would be used for agricultural land preservation.

Please try real hard to increase the county funds for agricultural land preservation, and you could even rationalize this increased expenditure by claiming that you were really, truly interested in preserving the rural nature of the county.

Fourth, it looks like you expect no passengers to use the airport (Passenger Facility Charges of $0.00), and it looks as if you expect to subsidize the airport to the tune of $633,500 in grants. The truth is probably even worse if interest on the airport expansion loans was ever made public knowledge. Please try to inform the public about the true state of the airport's finances and passenger load.

Fifth, I note that I am still paying for the sewer debt. It is evident that you don't care about shifting debt burdens to those who do not benefit from the improvements. Well, I care and this is just another example of unresponsive government actions.

Sixth, I ask that you make this the County Commissioners' budget and that you don't become rubber-stampers such as the Board of Education members are notorious for being.

Other than possibly the tax rebate, exactly what in this draft budget is the County Commissioners' and not the staff's idea?

Daniel Moeller

Rohrersville

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