Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Opinion - It's your money

It’s your money
That’s My Opinion
By Bob Robinson

It must be a personality defect.
As long as I keep my mouth shut, or ask mundane questions, I’m okay. But when I start to dig… try to understand or get to the meat of something, red flags go up and tempers flair.
It happened a few weeks ago with Darke County Commissioner Terry Haworth, and Wednesday with Commissioner Mike Rhoades. The trials and tribulations of wanting to understand the functions of our local government? Or I’m just too “in your face?” I don’t know.
Either way, I’m too old to change. I’ll have to live with it.
To set the record straight, commissioners have been hammered with accusations of raising taxes to fund their controversial courthouse addition. They can’t do it! They are at the maximum tax level they can go without taking it to the voters, and they won’t do that. They know better.
At the beginning of my campaign I may have said something about more taxes, although I doubt it. It would be political suicide. But I didn’t realize the tax level was at its max. I learned that sometime last year. Republican candidate Mike Stegall is absolutely correct when he tells you there will be no new taxes, and I was just as adamant about that throughout my campaign.
Going into debt, however, is a different story.
A couple of weeks ago, Stegall wrote, and I posted, the column “Planning for the Future.” In it he said the commissioners have changed their plan. He was detailed and specific, especially regarding no new taxes or debt… it is still on my blog if you want to check it out.
In fact, it was so specific, I questioned if he’d already been elected or the commissioners had asked him to be their spokesman. I got his usual fiery response that he was neither of those things… that all he did was ask.
Well, I’ve done that, too, but I said, “Okay, I’ll ask again.” So I did. I asked Wednesday. The commissioners acknowledged they hadn’t read Stegall’s column, so I read them an out-take…
“Due to some unexpected expenses and the economy turning slower than predicted, the revenue was not there for this project. So what did the commissioners do? The same thing we all do: changed their plan!”
One point confused me; when Stegall said at some point the commissioners could work on the courts building a little at a time. I still didn’t know how a new 3-story structure in downtown Greenville could be worked on “a little at a time.”
The commissioners – or at least Terry Haworth – answered that question.
It is important to note that while commissioners agreed that the plan itself really hasn’t changed, the timing and priorities have. Parking lot first, followed by improvements to and refurbishing of the courthouse.
I’m pretty sure that was part of the original plan.
At this point, Haworth said he was only speaking for himself, since the timing for the courthouse addition would be 5-6 years down the road and he would no longer be a sitting commissioner. He anticipated that the money would be borrowed when expected revenue was sufficient to handle the new debt. Rhoades and Commissioner Diane Delaplane neither concurred nor disagreed.
I know it’s semantics, but the end result sounds identical to the one announced several years ago.
In other matters of the board…
I’m now receiving the requested minutes of meetings by email. I’ve extended an invitation to one or all commissioners to speak at the next T.E.A. Patriots meeting on July 13. I have reason to believe that at least one commissioner will accept.
These are good things.
Then on Monday, the commissioners passed a resolution addressing two issues.
The first was to appropriate $1.4 million (or 10 percent, whichever is greater) of the total projected revenue to meet cash flow needs for the first quarter of the following year. The second was to designate one half of actual revenue over $13 million (with certain contractual exceptions) to be placed in the county’s Permanent Improvement-Capital Projects Fund. For example, if actual revenue was $14 million, $500 thousand would go into the General Fund and $500 thousand into the Capital Projects fund.
This resolution cannot be altered without prior notice to, and a meeting with, all county elected officials.
This is a great thing!
Based upon conversations I’ve had with county elected officials, and the lack of budgetary problems plaguing other counties, Darke County is doing an exceptional job of functioning within the current economic climate.
All of our elected officials need to be applauded for that. They are proving to be good stewards of our money.
Five or six years down the road, however, could be a different story. Depending, of course, on your perspective.
Three certified candidates – one Democrat, two Independents – have yet to make their opinions public. Republican candidate Mike Stegall is campaigning on no new debt.
Let them know your wishes… it’s your money.
That’s my opinion. What’s yours?

Bob Robinson is the retired editor of The Daily Advocate, Greenville, Ohio. If you wish to receive his opinion comments by direct email, send your email address to: opinionsbybob@gmail.com. Please express your views.

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