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Can government cut back, and where?

March 16, 2008

We asked our Opinion Club members:

With the price of energy and other necessities increasing, the average household is trimming its expenses. Should local government do the same? If your answer is "yes," can you suggest any areas for possible cutbacks?

Their responses:

· Many local governments keep solicitors (attorneys) on the payroll and pay them hourly for their services to arbitrate meetings, provide legal counsel where necessary, etc. Some of them are being paid up to $150 an hour to preside at meetings that often last several unnecessary hours because of stalemates, indecision, etc. Wouldn't it be more cost efficient to have meetings end at a prescribed hour thereby eliminating excessive or redundant solicitors' fees?
- Charlie Siford

· This is so easy, simple and logical. Of course local government should cut back. There is no way local government should be spending money that is obviously not there. Areas to cut back? Also easy, simple and logical. Every area. It is common knowledge most all agencies budget themselves for more money then they need and spend it foolishly before quarterly and annual amounts are due.

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Quit taking on new projects until this hard time is over. Nothing is bought unless it benefits the community immediately. Maintain what we have.
- Ed Canfield

· Well, for a start, the county shouldn't go spending $3 million for a building assessed at $1.4 million. That's a no-brainer.
- Burr Loomis

· As head of a two-fixed-income household, I have been trying to cut expenses and halt new costs for at least a year.

I think state, county and city governments should do the same - but it is difficult to know where to begin. Usually employees and their health and retirement benefits are the largest cost in any government.

It might be good to review all those eligible for retirement and see if any might be encouraged to leave sooner than planned.

And there must be easier ways to collect taxes. In our county, we have four billing offices for property tax, ambulance service, fire protection and personal property (essentially automobiles). All four offices are in a single building with slightly different street addressees and totally separate records, billing, etc. Each bills each taxpayer individually. That cannot be the least expensive way to handle these tasks.

Does it make sense to spend a reported $42 million simply to notify the public that most of us will be receiving stimulus payments?

The misguided citizens who bought speculative housing with fly-by-night subprime mortgages made their own choices clearly. Why penalize those of us who followed the election rules and also bought regular fixed mortgages at regular rates with the sins of our speculative colleagues who went for get-rich-quick real estate deals.
- David L. Woods

· Now that all of us endure defacto devaluation of the United States dollar, each private and public component at every level of society will be adversely affected. It is difficult to imagine that counties and municipalities can continue to spend at current rates without the need for confiscatory taxation. How can they trim expenses? The answer depends on each component of governance. One thing is certain: Across- the-board belt tightening will be needed.

The "good times" are drawing to a close for everyone. There will be no sinecure for local and state taxing authorities that take no heed of current circumstances.
- George Schmidt

· Yes, local government should tax less and spend less. But it won't do any good to suggest areas for possible cutbacks. So my unsolicited advice to the voters is, "Choose wisely next time."
- Daniel Moeller

· The local governments absolutely should be required to cut back on expenses. The cost of gas, heating and food has gone up drastically. Most households have had to trim or even cut out numerous things in order to get by. Some on low income have been forced to eliminate essentials like medical care, medicine and insurance. Government entities are also feeling the squeeze, but they must find ways to equally share the burden.

Our elected officials need to impose mandatory budget cuts and let the government managers decide how to best distribute the cuts with the least impact to services. They are the ones best able to make this decision.
- R.W. Rose

· Yes, I do believe local (and state and federal) government should cut back on expenses. I confess I am not sufficiently informed to spell out just where and how large these cutbacks should be made, but there has to be a lot of waste and fat in their budgets. They need to take a long, hard look at every expense, just as we have to, and distinguish between need and want.
- Ed Ver Hoef

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