Saturday, July 01, 2006

Columbus County Budget

The News Reporter

To say that this has been a bizarre budget year for the county would be an understatement.

First, County Manager Jim Varner made the revelation Monday night that the county hasn’t reconciled its bank statement since September 2005 because of the injury and loss of a staff member. Because of inaction, the county doesn’t really know how much savings it has to help balance the budget. That’s beyond bizarre; it’s almost inconceivable.

Then Varner told the commissioners that they may want to consider a 10-cent property tax hike and do away with solid waste fees. Commissioner James Prevatte was right when he said many property owners would “go ballistic.”

The idea of doing away with solid waste fees and raising taxes by 10 cents is a bad one. Granted, the numbers would work better for those who don’t own property or have lower property values, but the effects of a 10-cent increase on business, industry and farmers who have more than just a handful of acres of land would be profound for many. A 10-cent leap in taxes couldn’t be good for industrial recruitment, either.

People who use services should help shoulder the cost. That’s a basic concept.

The notion that the collection rate on solid waste fees is so bad anyway that doing away with them would be acceptable is not acceptable and needs investigation and action.

Fiscal 2006-2007 was going to be a tough budget to prepare because of the uncertainty of Medicaid relief for counties, which is yet to be resolved, but the county still has a significant shortfall to cover. The county also isn’t sure how much it may have to pay in potential lawsuit liabilities.

Coupled with last year’s borrowing of $10 million – the maximum allowed by the state – and the already low savings account that no one apparently knows the exact figure for, the county will be forced to adopt its budget on the fly and with too many variables. That’s not good business.

posted by David at 1:00 AM :: Permalink ::

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