Week of Fiscal Follies for Republican Commissioners

The past week pretty much summed up the past four years of the Republican majority on the Westmoreland Board of Commissioners – bad budgets, poor leadership, and no accountability. Now even public safety is victim to the mismanagement that already is hurting college students and their families, and other county offices.

For starters, you can’t preach public safety without a plan to pay for it.

The vote to buy $10 million of emergency communications equipment without a strategy to actually pay for it is the latest example of their negligence. ( http://triblive.com/news/westmoreland/8502100-74/commissioners-system-911#axzz3cfmURX2q ) When voting against this year’s budget I warned that the phony numbers didn’t account for millions of dollars in public safety expenses. It’s regrettable I was proven right.

Like I said the day they passed this budget over my objections, it’s the perfect storm of poor planning, misplaced priorities and panic. It’s now being exposed.

For Commissioners Anderson and Courtney to not account for millions of dollars now – and worse, to put off paying the bills until next year after the commissioners’ election – demonstrates not just a lack of leadership, but also reeks of politics. This is like signing a deed for a new home without first getting approved for a mortgage – or not even filing out the application!

Likely, their actions are a direct result of their budget record. Their irresponsible behavior over the past three-and-a-half years they have held the majority has doubled the county’s deficit and cut in half our financial reserves. It’s shameful now that important public safety upgrades are under this cloud of irresponsibility.

Sheriff’s deputies are now also victim to the phony budget numbers. As was recently disclosed, money to pay for part-time deputies is running out. And it’s no surprise. Over the past few years the sheriff’s office has spent more than $400,000 for part-time deputy wages, yet this year’s budget included a random cut of more than $125,000 – without a reduction in the part-time force itself.

Granted, the current sheriff has done little to help his cause throughout his one term due to all his antics, but in this case he has a legitimate beef. Commissioners Anderson and Courtney merely plugged unworkable budget numbers in to the sheriff’s office to make the overall budget (and themselves) look better, knowing full well the end-of-the-year budget figures (after the election, coincidentally!) will be much higher.

Like the expensive emergency radio dispatch upgrades there is no plan to address the shortfall to pay deputies. County government should not be this confused or chaotic.

One area, unfortunately, where there is certainty is at the Community College where there is a record 25 percent tuition hike, as a direct result of Commissioners Courtney and Anderson. In another attempt to hide from their misspending in other areas and escape accountability they continue to cut further the county’s allocation to WCCC. In 2011, the county’s local sponsorship amount was $4.3 million. This year it is down to $3.5 million. Students and their families are forced to pay for the mistakes of the Republican majority. As the Tribune-Review noted in a June 4 editorial about the historic tuition hike, “It’s a gut punch for students, and it won’t help the school’s declining enrollment.”

Combine all these episodes with their other fiscal follies and its clear Westmoreland County voters need to change the majority on the Board of Commissioners to protect taxpayers and restore accountability to county government.