Budget Season Arrives Again
Budget Season kicks off this month for Jefferson County and if history is any indication it should be an interesting process. I am in hopes that this budget year will see the return of funding for some of the non profits that have been cut in the past few fiscal years. It is easy for those that are charged with handling the County or City coffers to become myopic in their quest to keep taxes level and fund balances healthy. It is substantially more difficult to factor quality of life expenses into the budgeting process but, without the things that make daily life better for tax payers, it is much like a hard candy Christmas.
While I agree in theory that the torch for the non profits should be carried largely by the community, the hard truth is that we live in an area that is economically challenged on many fronts and sometimes, after the necessities and taxes are paid, there just isn’t much left to make the kind of donations that keep these non profits running. Do we really want to raise taxes to provide funding for non profits? Well, ideally no but it is easier to spread out the contribution than to expect a few to support the needs of the County or City. Often it is not those that can afford to contribute that dig deep into their wallets, it is those that have little to spare that answer the call because they see and feel the need.
Of course, there must be some formula for funding, some way to separate the organizations that do the most for the citizens from those whose functions just don’t have that much widespread impact. For the past couple of years it has been a feast or famine proposition, with famine holding the winning hand. It is short sighted for the County Commission or the elected officials of the cities to blanketly deny requests. Some of those that are seeking a donation must have a County buy in or they do not qualify for grants and other funding. It is a shame to see a needed service in jeopardy because of a couple of thousand dollars, especially taking into consideration the size of the County budget.
We, Jefferson County tax payers and residents, have a few million dollars set aside from the lease of the Jefferson Memorial Hospital and additional lease money currently comes in every year. I would think that this money should be spent in a way that improves the quality of life in Jefferson County. I have nothing against using it to purchase land for a Commerce Park or some other purchase that would boost the economy. But there is no reason that a few thousand dollars can’t go toward helping out those that make life easier for the most vulnerable in our society-Meals on Wheels, Safe Space, Humane Society, Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity just to name a few that have experienced cuts in the last few budget cycles. Sitting on the money doesn’t help anyone and the County should not be in the business of hording money. Certainly, they need to keep enough in their accounts to be functional and stable but this lease money is available and can easily be used for quality of life funding. I know that the lease money is not a guarantee and I would never suggest using it for anything that couldn’t be cut the next budget cycle if necessary. We all know that non profits can and have been cut before and could be cut again if the money runs out but until that time our citizens can benefit from its use.
I think that the County Commission has done an admirable job in keeping taxes down and I know that it is a heavy charge to be the voice that must decide who gets funded and who goes home empty handed. My hope, as budget season beings, it that those decision makers do not just go with the status quo and consider using our money for some of the things that make our individual lives and our community a better place to life. Can we live with toast and water? Sure. But it would sure go down a little better if you open the jar and spread a little jam. It doesn’t have to be much to leave a much better taste in all of our mouths. You know, a spoon full of sugar and all of that jazz.