The issue is not “Do you want a tax increase?” The issue is “What do you want cut from the budget before the millage rate is established?”
Support might be provided for a millage rate [property tax] increase if commissioners held public meetings where budget items were individually presented for public discussion. This would be quite different from the usual public hearings where a final budget summary is handed out and people are asked, “What do you have to say?”
Would commissioners dare ask voters what government activity they would like eliminated from the budget? Is it really necessary to include a dedicated fueling facility, batting cages, and new computer software in this budget? Do they expect you to pay for luxuries when you are having trouble putting bread on the table? Do they care what you think? Speak now or get stuck with the bill. Let the commissioners know you want real public discussion of how your tax money is being spent.
Conundrum for commissioners
Your constituents are hurting, losing their jobs, their homes and sometimes their families due to the current economy. What are you to going to do?
Last year, Juvenile Court Judge David Turk was able to start up a Family Drug Court that has proven to be amazingly successful at keeping families together when they were about to lose custody of their children to the Department of Family and Children’s Services.
Nineteen young people who live in this county are currently enrolled. Since the program began a year ago, no participant has been terminated from the program or been arrested for an alcohol or drug abuse related offense.
Judge Turk’s request for $35,000 is not being included in the proposed budget. All current funding for Drug Court goes to treat users who have already been imprisoned as a result of drug use. While that is a great program, wouldn’t it be better if drug use and criminal activity could be stopped before criminal acts are committed?
Intensive counseling provided by Turk’s program will cost the county only about $1850 per year for each participant. Compare the yearly cost for this treatment with the cost of keeping a drug abuser in jail and it is easy to see the bargain this program provides. A cost to benefits comparison clearly shows the Family Drug Court ought to be funded.
Commissioners will need to go over the budget looking for every item that might be eliminated or reduced if they are to provide these valuable services. They may be dammed if they do and dammed if they don’t; but wise decisions are what we require of our county commissioners.
Maybe Chairman Raber’s budget petition is a good idea if county commissioners are the collectors. Talking face to face with several hundred constituents would be a great way to find out what they really think. However, it would be a lot easier to just encourage folks to attend budget hearings and allow real discussion of budget items.