Today, I voted against the 2015 county budget. The budget passed by the Republican majority is the perfect storm of poor planning, misplaced priorities and panic. Its $6 million deficit continues to spend down the county’s once-robust reserves and pushes residents towards a property tax increase.
When the current majority took office in 2012, the county’s deficit was $3 million and there was a fund balance of $41.5 million. Today, the deficit is double and the county’s reserves are less than half of what they were.
Compounding their overspending, Commissioners Anderson and Courtney have built this budget on straw, not accounting for at least $5 million in capital projects, including overdue upgrades to the county’s emergency radio system. This is money that will need to be borrowed next year. By not accounting for it now they are trying to fool county residents with phony numbers.
The budget also spends money in the wrong places. It cuts funding for education — again — at our Community College, forcing students to pay higher tuition. It makes arbitrary cuts to economic development efforts, the Arnold Palmer Airport, conservation and public libraries. Yet it maintains consulting contracts, lobbyists, and high-cost executives and personal staff.
Frankly, the whole process has been flawed. Real, honest budgets — the kind that make needed investments, improve services and eliminate waste — are crafted throughout the year, not hastily thrown together over a few days in December, without any input from those impacted by the decisions. It’s like the kid who doesn’t study all school year, then tries to cram it all in the night before the big exam — the results are never good. Commissioners Anderson and Courtney have failed the test.