Have you ever tried to balance your checkbook and you are just a couple dollars different than the balance. No matter how you add it up the money doesn’t show up on either side of the balance sheet. It’s only a few bucks, who cares, but as I was always told, if it’s a dollar off, it could be a thousand. You have to clean it up.
It’s like trying to remove the stains on my t-shirts left by the food I consistently drop on my belly. My favorite tee comes out of the dryer, the one with the holes in the armpits, and it’s like, oh no, look at the stains on it.
Much like working through a budget, government or otherwise, no matter how hard you scrub it you have to use stain remover to really clean it up. But you have to be careful because you don’t want to Shout-Out the last bit of lettering (Parrot Bar, Key West) and ruin the shirt, holes and all.
Dan Gecker, Midlothian District Supervisor, alluded to the last half-dozen county budgets when he said, during last week’s budget meeting, that he didn’t want to take more from citizens as they go line by line to find places to tighten the $7.36 million county budget.
Mr. Gecker is right. As each budget has been trimmed, the ones who suffer are the residents of the county. More money to pay for services or the cutting of services, and we are the ones who pay, through our tax dollars, better schools, to open libraries, less funding for kids sports programs and now a possible raise in auto registrations, among others.
I don’t want to bang the drum again, but why should citizens suffer for short revenue when it’s not our fault? You probably know or have figured out that our property or real estate taxes will go up this year. Most of us have already received our assessments in the mail (average increase of 2 percent) and the real estate tax rate will, more than likely, increase as well.
Yet we will lose more services. The county could close community centers; raise dump fees; Business, Professional and Occupational Licenses (BPOL) and building permits – the costs that directly affect you and me.
But the actual budget we see now, as the decisions are being made, is just about 20 lines. The budget and management director says the long version of the budget is just to long to get into right now. County Administrator James J.L. Stegmaier said there are some things that he would speak privately to Board members about. He said he didn’t feel comfortable talking about it in front of everyone, meaning the news media.
Gecker questioned Mr. Stegmaier’s commitment to open government. He said if we plan on sticking by what we preach about open government then let’s do it and not have closed door meetings.
Gecker also asked why the county has such a hard time with an open checkbook so citizens can see where their money is going. Some in the local Patriot group have been speaking to the Board during the public comments segment of the Board of Supervisors for some time. I asked Mr. Gecker if he was now speaking Tea Party language. He said he wasn’t and that it still made a lot of sense. And, he’s right.
Grease stain by grease stain the county budget is being cleaned. It will be April before the Board of Supervisors adopts it and there is much to do between now and then. If the economy continues the way it has the last five years the budget will look more like my old t-shirt than a $10 replacement. But you know, the old one is just so comfortable.