Scott Tibbs
blog post
July 15th, 2005

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Thoughts on the county budget

The Monroe County Council is considering the 2006 county budget, and they will need to make some tough choices.

Three things are handing over the council:

  1. A pay raise for county employees
  2. The cost of two new courts
  3. A potential tax increase for Options for Better Living.
I wrote a letter to the Council and Commissioners earlier this month opposing the tax increase.

In a July 13 editorial, the Herald-Times endorsed the idea of a tax increase for Options for Better Living, but said "because it would require a tiny increase to the county's property tax rate, it will take some political courage" to do so.

It is always a "tiny" tax increase, isn't it? But when you have a "tiny" tax increase here, and another one there, and add another one from somewhere else, you start getting to the point where you have a real burden. When you add all taxes at the federal, state, and local levels, county residents are already overtaxed. It is also important to consider the principle of raising taxes on all county residents to benefit one specific organization.

It is important to note that the cost of two new courts is going to be significantly higher than thought earlier. The H-T reports that instead of each court adding $400,000 to the county budget, it will instead cost $1,000,000 per court. Can the Council go to the taxpayers and ask for a raise for OBL when they will already need to pass an excess property tax levy for the courts?

The County Council has placed a priority on pay raises for county employees, and that is a good thing. Not only did most county employees (other than probation officers, who got a raise as mandated by state government) not get a raise in 2005, their take home pay actually went down because the cost of county health insurance went up. Employee raises must be the highest priority of the County Council.

County government is very labor-intensive. County employees work hard to provide services to the public and should be fairly compensated for their service. The Council must set priorities to make sure that county employees are given an increase in their pay. If this means eliminating funding for social services and the Bloomington Economic Development Commission, then that should be done.

Both county taxpayers and county employees will be watching the County Council's budget process very closely. This is the first big test for the Democrat-controlled County Council. Will they hit a home run or will they strike out?

More thoughts on the county budget

If county government is going to be giving monies to various social service agencies, the County Council should be distributing the funds instead of the Commissioners. It should be set up like the city's John Hopkins Fund.

The reason this change should be made is that it would provide sunshine on the process, on both applying for and actually distributing the monies. It would be a public vote on a funding package that the public can comment on in support or opposition. The Commissioners should not have the authority to distribute these monies, the Council should.

As I have said many times in the past, I am not a fan of the city's John Hopkins Fund. However, I like the way the city does it a lot more than the way the county does it.