In a courtroom packed with angry citizens, the Hawkins County Commission restored funding to the County Library System (preventing loss of state-funding and materials) and managed to avoid increasing taxes for the sixth consecutive year in a row.
The bad news is – balancing the budget required a 10% cut across the board in all county offices, all 12 fire departments, the county’s two ambulance services, Hawkins County 911, Hawkins County HazMat and rescue squads.
Additionally, there was 10% reduction in contributions to non-profit organizations. Both Chambers of Commerce got the short end of the stick, and no help was provided for the disabled veterans — who wish to purchase a van to transport vets to and from the VA medical facility in Johnson City. (Jeff Bobo at the Times-News reports that donations were taken up after the meeting and at least $600 raised. Truth be told, I’d rather see the van funded by private donations than see this factor in to any budgetary decisions.)
You know, I’ve heard all my life that you cannot live above your means or you can’t spend what you don’t have. Quite simply, we didn’t have it. If this was the best we could do without raising taxes, then I approve of the cuts. But is it the best we can do?
The country has a long history of mismanagement. This starts with county “improvement” projects, which are more idealistic than practical and therefore, tend to run over-budget and out of control. The problem is exacerbated by their eagerness to approve resolutions which come with a price tag – without consideration to how they might fund these things at budget time. For example: a “state-mandated” salary increase for Juvenile Judge Jay Taylor wasn’t “mandated.” The State of Tennessee passed a private act at the request of the county allowing the change: the county had the option to reject it. They didn’t. They approved the increase without a lot of complaints from the public at the time. Now, they have to fund it.
Add to this dipshittery, how the Commission thought it was a great idea to renege on a grant agreement for the funding of a parks director position. The decision will almost certainly compromise future grant eligibility scores, and after appointing Commissioner Kenneth Long to serve as a “paid” park overseer, purchasing a county vehicle and refunding $25,000 of the a state grant after they bailed: they still spent more money backing out of the deal.
I also suspect the budget, as passed, has flaws – which will have office holders raiding the $300,000 surplus in no time at all. When office holders and department heads were asked to make cuts, they made unrealistic cuts such as phone bills. Chances are they’re going to show up with their hat in their hand begging for more money soon enough. Also, the county has gotten into hot water for underfunding the 911 system in the past. I don’t imagine things will be any different this time. Also, compromised emergency services are likely to affect fire and ambulance ratings, thereby making home owners insurance go up and influencing our eligibility for various type of funding, etc.
So my thoughts: I’m glad there’s no tax increase but in a county, which has inspired more than it’s fair share of jokes – such as “How many secretaries/supervisors does it take to change a light bulb in Hawkins County?” it’s a shame they sought to balance the budget by cutting services provided to citizens.
I think we should keep in mind:
When leadership starts investing more in the administration and supervision of themselves at the expense of the citizens they serve: it’s time to get new leadership.