As sure as gas prices rise in the summer and property values decline in a recession, someone, at some point, will have an issue with allocations in the county’s budget for next year and complain that the public wasn’t given a chance to have input into the spending plan.
Which isn’t exactly true. The budget under consideration has been available for public inspection, and a public hearing has been held to give local residents an opportunity for input. And as usual when local governments hold hearings to discuss the spending of millions of dollars, few, if any, of those residents so concerned about how their taxes are spent can be bothered to show up.
For many, it’s easier to complain later than to become involved now.
The public budget hearing held earlier this month did have one bit of a surprise, as outgoing Sheriff Ted Paxton petitioned commissioners to reduce the sheriff’s budget by $5 million for the coming year.
Paxton said that Duane Piper, who defeated Paxton in the Republican runoff, said the office could be run for $5 million less, so the budget should be reduced by that amount. The county’s finance director said after the hearing that the cuts were suggested to be made in overtime, inmate housing, fuel costs and personnel, all essential to the operation of the sheriff’s office.
To their credit, commissioners were smart enough to be cautious with the post-election budget request and agreed to move the $5 million into a public safety reserve fund just in case it really does need to be spent by the sheriff’s office next year.
And who knows, maybe it won’t. If in fact the next sheriff, whether it be Piper or write-in candidate D.T. Smith, can operate the office that much more cheaply, the county will have a $5 million financial cushion.
For now, we’re glad commissioners were judicious in setting the money aside so that it will remain available “just in case.”
At their meeting Thursday, commissioners will take a final vote on the spending plan for next year, one that looks to be responsible and which maintains the existing property tax rate. For those who are interested, details of the spending plan can be found online at forsythco.com, or in hard copy at the county administration building.