Enough Is As Good As A Feast

For several years now, I have watched as the County Commission has struggled to find the funds to provide for the financial needs of Jefferson County. Truthfully, we enjoy a reasonable tax rate and that is important to many who struggle to pay their property taxes. You only have to have a couple of discussions with folks traveling from elsewhere or who have relocated from north of the Mason Dixon Line to realize what can happen when no one is minding the property tax rate and politicians are left to their own devices. We have it pretty good. Now with that being said, I do have a problem with accumulating $8 million dollars from the lease of the local hospital at the rate of $750,000 per year and refusing to touch it for the betterment of the citizens of Jefferson County.

Yes. I understand the argument that dipping into the pool can result in getting you dripping wet. But, how deep do we have to allow the water to get before we feel comfortable going for a little swim? Our general fund for Jefferson County is hovering around the $1.2 million dollar mark. Granted, that is nothing to sneeze at but we are facing some expenses. Our per capita income is high. Too high if you ask me ( though no one ever does) and we are still taking on debt like french fries take on grease. Example, the recent decision to fund $11 million for the nursing home expansion. We are fortunate to have a great nursing home facility in Jefferson County and growing our capacity to help our elderly is a wonderful thing. Financing it over the next 30 years is not such a wonderful thing. Right now, the County Commission is schizophrenic. On one hand we will work to pay as we go on school debt and we won’t touch the hospital fund for things that would better the quality of life in Jefferson County but we will finance our next generation into a thirty year promise. A baby born in Jefferson County today will still be paying off this new $11 million dollars when they are blowing out thirty candles on their birthday cake. Scary huh.

So, we have $8 million dollars sitting in an account that we refuse to touch for any reason, including tapping down our debt. We are so committed per capita that we cannot afford the quality of life things that will make our community a better place to live. Things like tennis courts, parks and recreation areas-things that improve the health of the community in both a mental and physical capacity- those things are important. We want to LIVE in Jefferson County. We don’t want to just survive in Jefferson County, squeaking by with only the necessities.

I know the argument for saving the hospital lease money is the fear that, one day, the contract for the hospital will not be renewed and Jefferson County will need those funds to keep the facility going. While that may sound reasonable, I question if anyone knows the monthly budget of Jefferson Memorial Hospital? My guess is that it is much higher than most of us could ever imagine. How much time will $8 million dollars buy if the lease were not renewed? Realistically, I would think that it would not buy much time at all. Jefferson Memorial is a money maker for Tennova and, should they decide to leave, I would think another medial group would be standing in line. So, we sit on our nest egg waiting for the day that it could, possibly, maybe, if everything goes to flux, be needed to buy us a couple of days, or we could be investing in the health of our community, on a reasonable level, with part of these funds so we might help our residents enjoy better quality of life now and in the future.

I have said it before and I will say it again and again. Governments are not in the business of hording tax payer money. While a healthy fund balance is good, it is only as good as the quality of life that it provides to the people that fund it. We need to use the funds we have available in a reasonable and creative way to get the most bang for the buck for our citizens. Enough really is as good as a feast and we have way more than enough to give Jefferson County a little boost toward a better way of life. We would only need to spend a little to get the possibility of a big impact if we spend in a planned and thoughtful way.

Happy Thanksgiving to You and Yours from Our family at the Jefferson County Post! May Your Home be Blessed!

Source: K. Depew, News Director