The other group says "don't raise my taxes." The easy way to satisfy both (which will increase the chances of being elected) is to borrow the money. Once they learn the trick of borrowing their way out of trouble, there seems no way of stopping them.
Avoiding construction delays is not an excuse to borrow. Delays are more often caused by changing priorities and poor planning. The cost of the Maugans Avenue rehabilitation did not increase due solely to postponing. The standard "low ball" initial estimate by the Dept of Public Works, changes, underestimating the acquisition cost of property and the bad luck of the sinkhole contributed far more to the cost overrun than not getting started sooner.
In fairness to the present board, its members had little time in office before they were presented with the budget so we can cut them a little slack. It is hoped that in the next three budgets they will be more experienced and fiscally responsible with the county's finances.
Aleshire: We can't say no to any request
To the editor:
John Schnebly's recent column reads as if Washington County merely operated on a $15 million "tax-supported borrowing" budget that was paid off each year. However, the truth is the budget has grown to nearly $310 million, with more debt than at any time in county history. My opposition was not specific to borrowing more as much as it was to our inability to say no, let alone limit, any funding request that came through the door, as if those that did vote "aye" to the budget had little understanding of the limits of the average taxpayer's wallet. John did not mention the 30 percent increases to various nonprofits, rubber-stamping the BOE's budget, the additional $6 million in fee-supported debt or continual economic tax "breaks" reflected for large corporate investments.
We could argue the matter of increased fiscal management being the root cause of increased county budget stability. But let's be honest, the public is painfully aware at this point that it has been increased borrowing, increased assessments, and increased fees that have painted a stronger county budget picture. So much so that we cannot now seem to pull ourselves from the borrowing trough or the proffering of fees for more development. We had to reduce our assessment caps at the city and county levels simply to provide some relief to the average homeowner. All of this on top .
Although I agree and thank staff for providing some light at the end of the infamous "sewer debt" tunnel, I would not call nearly 20 years to get there a "rapid rate," especially when the county has inappropriately diverted millions of dollars from the general tax fund to do so. Just imagine, taxpayers, what we could have accomplished with the $3 million a year we have been taking from you to pay for the sewer debt.
Instead of borrowing $51 million to pay for roads, schools, public safety and other general tax supported improvements, between 1995 and 2012, we could have actually spent your tax dollars on the improvements we collected your tax money to go toward. So, not only are you paying for a sewer system 80 percent of you will never receive any benefit from, you are paying twice for general services.
A good thing for the taxpayers will be when we can learn to prioritize, as staff suggested, those budgetary expenses we are continually requested to afford. And a better thing will be when the public is able to witness our discussions and decision-making in its full context, firsthand.
Washington County Commissioner