More budget insanity from Lane County, Oregon. The county threatens important cuts in public safety if the 2% tax isn’t passed (yes it starts at 1.1%, but how long do you think it will take before they raise it?). Yet what really is going on? They cite losing $20 million in Federal funds, and that sounds like a lot. But the dirty little secret is in a budget of almost $500 million, it’s only about 4% of the total. Yes, 4% (if you add in the missing federal road funds, the budget variance is 8%). For that they claim they’ll have to shut down programs, have massive layoffs and let criminals free? Insane. If they can’t handle a 4% budget variance they need to go back to management school.
First, the facts: From KMTR who reports the $20 million loss in federal money:
Budget Number One reflects about $3 million in service reductions and assumes federal money will continue.
Budget Number Two deals with losing $20 million for general county services and another $20 million from road funds.
And next, from Lane County’s web site (Financial Summary, page 7) the total budget amount of almost $500 million.
Total Resources for the County total $492.8 million. This is an increase of $6.3 million from the current year’s budget of $486.5 million.
So, 20/492.8 is 4.05%. And for that paltry amount, they’re trying to implement a permanent income tax of 2%? Even if you take the loss of road funds, it’s still only an 8.2% budget variance.
So, since they have so much trouble with the budget, here’s a few ideas to get them started to handle the small variance:
- Most important, learn to prioritize spending. Sheriff and road services are primary functions of County government. Fund those fully for public safety, and with whatever is left over fund any remaining programs. Anything at the bottom probably isn’t required.
- Implement an immediate hiring freeze. This should have been done years ago. No need for layoffs, just let natural attrition reduce the workforce.
- The commissioners themselves should serve for free. Just like city councils and school councils all over do.
- Immediate freeze in travel, conferences, etc
Finally, Lane County has a huge reserve fund (from page E-7 of the budget reports) totaling over $100 million or almost 20% of the budget!
The County’s adopted financial policies direct that each fund should have a minimum 5% prudent person reserve. This budget category totals $102.5 million for FY 06-07 and is 19.1% of the total budget. This includes reserves for operations as well as future capital projects.
But they need to be honest, they’re trying to shakedown Lane County taxpayers with a permanent, ever increasing tax rate of 2% for only a 4%-8% reduction in revenue. And if taxpayers don’t give in to their demands, they’ll lash out in anger and cut important safety programs instead of areas where spending isn’t a priority.
Also see: More on the Lane County Income Tax