Scott Tibbs
blog post
August 31st, 2005

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Tell the truth, Greg.

Elsewhere, Democratic activist Greg Travis writes:
On 2005-08-30 09:11, greg wrote:

I'm glad that Sue, Marty, and the Commissioners waited till after the budget hearings to bring up their budgetary concerns. Wouldn't want to muddy the fiscal waters with political issues.


Travis' statement is simply not true. Marty Hawk has been banging the drum about this, trying to draw attention to what she believes is unwise fiscal policy, for weeks. Marty has been the council's budget hawk (horrible pun intended) for many years, advocating a strict fiscal conservatism. Unfortunately, she is not listened to as often as she should be. I guess Greg Travis has given up the idea of his Association of Monroe County Taxpayers being "non-partisan".

If you haven't been following the articles about the budget in the local bird cage liner, here is an update. The Democrat-controlled Monroe County Council passed a significant "excess levy" (property tax hike) in order to pay for two new courts that the State Legislature has granted Monroe County. A property tax increase was necessary to pay for increased pressure the two courts would put on the budget. (In fact, it could be argued that the County Council should have pursued an excess levy when they were forced to hire a bunch of new jailers last year.)

There is disagreement, however, about whether the amount of tax increase was appropriate. There was a sentiment among some that the county should go for as much as they can get now, because they would not be able to go back for another one later. While it is reasonable to ask property taxpayers to pay more for essential services such as two new courts, going to the already overtaxed people of Monroe County for a wish list is not appropriate in tight economic times. If IU students who rent homes or apartments think this will not affect them, they need to realize that property taxes are included in their rent.

One controversial move was the Council's decision not to renew a bond issue for a planned purchase of office equipment (such as computers) in 2006. Had they renewed the bond issue, it would have paid for the equipment. Instead, the council decided to pay for the equipment out of the county's cash reserves. There is some concern about whether or not the cash balance will be high enough after the cash reserves are drained for the equipment purchase. Furthermore, Jeff Ellington pointed out on AM 1370 that the money will no longer be drawing interest. If something happens and county government faces an unexpected expense, will there be enough cash reserves to cover it?

The council did make a good move in approving pay raises for county employees. County employees saw no pay raise in 2005, and most of them actually saw their net pay go down because health insurance premiums went up. While the county had no choice but to pass along an overdue increase in those premiums, it was still an unfortunate situation for county employees.

A $300,000 tax hike to benefit one specific social service agency, however, was not a good move. The Democratic County Council increased social services funding across the board, while slashing the fleet maintenance budget. Cutting the subsidy to the BEDC was a welcome move, however. Overall, the county budget was up 15% over last year's budget.

If the Republicans play their cards right, they will have a significant campaign issue for the 2006 County Council elections. As a result of the first budget session since the Democrats regained control of the County Council, taxpayers are going to have to pay quite a bit more to county government. To get the maximum political benefit, however, Republicans will need to restrain members of their own party (such as County Commissioner Joyce Poling) who want to pass a Food and Beverage Tax.