Budget Time Again

Jefferson County is deep in the budgeting process and Helton, who is the Director of Finance, actually muttered the words tax increase last week, while giving the School Board the first look at their budget proposal for 2013-2014. Will it actually come down to a tax increase this year? I have heard dissenting opinions on the issue. Some agree with Helton and some believe that the County Commission will be able to push it aside for another year. What is disturbing is that those with both opinions believe that a tax increase is on the horizon, they just disagree about how long the Commission will be able to tread the rising water. Some believe that it would be best to have incremental increases, rather then hitting tax payers with a jumbo increase all in one year. Others believe that the tax increase will be left until it can provide the most political bang, regardless of the sticker shock that tax payers may experience. From the first look at the DOE budget, the water is rising fast and this Commission is going to have to have a better answer for our fiscal woes than Cut, Cut, Cut. Give pay raises…but cut. Pay your bills and pay them on time… but cut. So, if a department cut to the bone last year, what is left to cut this year? It costs money to live and it costs money to operate this County. It should be interesting to see where they will go with this year’s budget requests. I am looking for a request for an increase in funding for at least some of the fire departments, though the request may not have enough steam to pass the full Commission. I also believe that if all other County employees are getting 2% raises, then teachers should get a full 2% raise. The State is only mandating a 1.5% raise and it seems unfair that teachers should get less just because they are certified. Regardless of how you feel about the School Building Program, the truth is that it costs real American dollars to do the type of expansion and renovation that we are doing in this County and the only real source of revenue that the County has is the property tax. If I upgrade to a new house, I expect that my monthly costs are going to increase. That is how the real world works. It costs money to build a house or a tool shed or a school and someone has to pay for those expenses. We debated, we built and we have the bills that come with the decision. For or against the Building Program, the buildings are complete and the decision time is over. It is silly to think that, as a County, we could undertake the projects that we have undertaken and maintain the relatively same amount of revenue. Actually, we are in a much more precarious financial position than we were even last year.  The worth of a penny is going down, property values are going down and the cost to run the County and provide services is going up. I think the question of a tax increase is more when than if  and perhaps the bigger question, the one that we should all be asking, is  How many pennies will it take to fill the cookie jar?. Today, tomorrow or next year, my guess is that it will be more than just pocket change.

Source: K. Depew, News Director