Don’t worry about the budget “doomsday”
So the Lane County budget is a “doomsday” waiting to happen (according to Commissioners). A prudent person would take steps to save money, right? Not Lane County. Not only have they given raises of up to 20% (December 2006) over several years (from $98,000 to $118,000) to directors, they’re in the midst of a hiring binge!
Many people express the stunningly obvious idea public safety is the County’s #1 priority. In light of that, and the financial “doomsday” the Commissioners claim, we’ll let the reader decide the wisdom of these new hires (as of 5/30/2007, see the current list for yourself at http://www.co.lane.or.us/jobs/ ):
- 207-044 CLINICAL SERVICES SUPERVISOR ($25-$33/hour)
- 207-037 MHO CARE COORDINATION SPECIALIST ($19-$27/hour)
- 207-040 PHYSICIAN ($90,000 – $125,000 /year)
- 3 Network Programmers/analysts ($50,000 – $68,000 / year)
- 206-146 ASSISTANT COUNTY COUNSEL (not just one, but two!)
- Engineering Assistant and Technician
- Executive Assistant
- Human Resources Analysis
- And our personal favorite: 207-029 NUISANCE ABATEMENT SPECIALIST
… and so on.
For families in Oregon, if you’re caught in the squeeze of rising costs (gas, healthcare, etc) and short of money you prioritize, budget and eliminate non-essentials (and certainly don’t take on new financial obligations). But not if you’re a Lane County Commissioner. Then you give out raises, spend on non-priorities, hire more people, whine when you lay them off, and then try to raise taxes to fix the fiscal insanity brought on by poor decisions and a wanton disregard for the voting citizens.
Are they telling all these new hires the job is only temporary? It would be unethical to hire people knowing money doesn’t exist to keep them after a year. Or is the plan to keep these new positions, and layoff others? Or do they have a secret pile of cash to pay for all these new hires? Or do they have a plan at all? We’re sure they have a plan, since it’s fiscal suicide to increase monetary obligations during financial uncertainty (and given the recent thumping of the tax increase, their new plan couldn’t involve a new tax, as that would be foolish after voters rejected over a dozen tax proposals).
They must have a plan to handle all this, and the 8% budget variance at the same time.
Here’s just a few ideas to help them with the budget (which we’ve said before, and are nothing more than obvious ideas):
- Most important, learn to prioritize spending. Public safety/law enforcement 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 which should have been done years ago. No need for layoffs, just let natural attrition reduce the workforce.
- Immediate freeze in travel, conferences, new equipment, etc.
- Use part of the huge reserve fund to stabilize the budget while reductions are made — thus avoiding layoffs of hard-working employees.
- Don’t give out large raises to managers and others while announcing layoffs for other employees. (duh!)
Sadly, the more you learn about the County budget and the way it’s managed, the worse it looks. Why are they hiring when for the last year they talk about layoffs? Why give out raises to some, and pink slips to others? Why ask for more taxes, when little attempt is made to control spending? Why not use the reserve fund? Is this a fiscally responsible way to run a public organization?
Sadly, it appears the Commissioners have no plan to change their actions, so the citizens can look forward to repeating this whole mess again in a year. Swell.
Remember, if you’re a nuisance abatement specialist, the county has a job for you! But maybe only for a year …