Archive for Sunday, July 18, 2010

Public input sought on lean county budget

July 18, 2010

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Crunching numbers in meetings

Douglas County commissioners are set to meet Monday to review budget issues involving several programs, projects and departments:

• 8 a.m.: Douglas County Community Corrections and district courts.

• 8:15 a.m. to 10:15 a.m.: administrative budget issues, including proposed pay increases for county employees, the Capital Improvement Program, and the county’s building fund.

• 10:30 a.m.: review issues related to economic development, heritage-related efforts and preservation of open space.

Public input will be heard during a special commission meeting, at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday.

Commissioners intend to start making changes to the county’s recommended budget during a hearing at 8 a.m. July 26.

All meetings are set for the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Mass.

Scouring Douglas County’s proposed $69 million budget for next year already has trimmed more than $250,000 in expenses from the thick, three-ring binders that elected officials have been lugging around for the past week.

The identified excess expenditures — duplicate entries sniffed out by Commissioner Mike Gaughan — trimmed a projected increase in the county’s property tax rate from 16.6 percent to 15.9 percent, without commissioners having to cut a single project, program or proposal.

Now the real work begins.

“Anything we can find to save a few dollars, that’s good,” Commissioner Jim Flory said. “But we’re still looking.”

This week, commissioners will continue budget hearings before opening up the process to public comment Tuesday night.

That meeting — set for 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Mass. — will be expected to focus on a wide array of planned revenues and expenditures for 2011.

Perhaps the most notable is a proposed property tax increase of 5.23 mills, which would cost the owner of a $150,000 home another $90.22 next year. Before Gaughan uncovered the duplicate budget entries, which had added to the county’s projected expenses for next year, the increased cost would have equaled $93.84.

The increased property taxes would help the county make up for declining revenues, such as a projected $1 million drop in mortgage taxes, plus assist some social services agencies and other projects recover somewhat from state and federal budget cuts. Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, for example, would be able to hire a psychiatrist to serve low-income clients.

The county also would set aside $500,000 for economic-development efforts, plus another $500,000 for heritage-related efforts and open-space preservation. County employees also would get a 1-percent cost-of-living increase, plus be eligible for merit raises and longevity bonuses.

Flory, who already has suggested potential cuts to the recommended budget, is the one who suggested having an evening meeting set aside exclusively for public comments regarding the budget.

While a public hearing will be conducted in August — a hearing required by law, to clear the way for the budget’s official adoption — Tuesday night’s early edition should end up being more useful for commissioners, Flory said.

“We’d like to hear the public comments before we make all the decisions,” he said.

While the proposed tax increase already has generated plenty of interest — Flory said he had received several calls about it, and County Administrator Craig Weinaug has acknowledged receiving numerous communications — Tuesday’s meeting also will allow backers of proposals for new and expanded programs to express their support.

“My hope would be that this is seen as an opportunity for people to come, both with their concerns and also with their encouragement with certain parts of the budget,” said Nancy Thellman, commission chairwoman.

Comments

kansasmutt 5 years, 1 month ago

Mr.Flory. Tell us how much you would save using the white rock to chip and seal the conty roads , instead of the red rock ???????????????????????? Dont give us that crap that the dust is less and the red rock lasts longer, because we know that lie doesnt work. How come the county doesnt use open station smaller tractors and cycle bar mowers to save BIG money ?????? Those 2 items alone would be a savings in the millions. Why not lease your trucks insted of buying ? That again would save BIG money. Why let so many employees drive trucks home ? I think if you would look at your money like we do, you would be suprised and could trim enough off to offset the shortfall very simply. Do this like we common folks have to do, trim and go without some things. Run a tight ship and use some business smarts please.

PCC_2013 5 years, 1 month ago

For one its sickle not cycle bar, and sickle bar mowers are are more for hay fields cause they lay down the grass istead of cut it and if a sickle bar mower hits a rock or another hard object its more likley to break than the roater mowers they use now since the blades are mounted in a singal place are designed to to bounce off a hard item. You would save money up front with the sickle bar but with repair coust and the maintence of sickle bar mowers its less exspensive to own and operate the roatery mowers they have now. The county likes the capped tracors because they allow for the workers to stay cool and a low them to get more done in the day and if they need to leave the tractor out for the night they can lock it up and not have to worry to much about people messing with it.

jafs 5 years, 1 month ago

Why don't you go to the meetings and share your suggestions there?

John Hamm 5 years, 1 month ago

"duplicate entries" Wonder how many times this has worked in previous years to inflate the budget?

Centerville 5 years, 1 month ago

Or use the P.J. O'Rourke standard: is it worth taking the money away from my Mom?

LogicMan 5 years, 1 month ago

"cost-of-living raises for employees"

Except for these and other illogical tax increases that directly decrease consumer spending which is 70% of our economy, the cost of living is going down. Mild deflation has been underway. Bought anything, except utilities and maybe food, at full retail lately?

No raises, no new spending, and no replacement of federal and state funds. Cut some costs to fund new healthcare liabilities. Net zero budget.

But if sales, etc. taxes and fees come in higher than expected put them in a fund to pay one-time bonuses, buy capital goods, etc. at the end of the fiscal year.

irvan moore 5 years, 1 month ago

it will be interesting to see how many will take the time to show up and share their ideas on how the money should be spent or not spent. perhaps wednesday we can log back on this site and find out who was willing to participate in the process.

Godot 5 years, 1 month ago

"The county also would set aside $500,000 for economic-development efforts, plus another $500,000 for heritage-related efforts and open-space preservation. County employees also would get a 1-percent cost-of-living increase, plus be eligible for merit raises and longevity bonuses."

Nothing in that paragraph is necessary or warranted at this time. Cut it all.

ksjayhawk74 5 years, 1 month ago

Large pot holes in alleys can easily be filled in with rocks. Send a truck filled with golf ball sized rocks trough alleys and dump rocks into the holes. I'm sure that would cost much less than any other method, since the rocks should be free, if not really cheap.

I saw someone do this on their own in an alley and now you can drive through that section without having to steer around the holes like you're in a minefield.

kansasmutt 5 years, 1 month ago

Just an update on the sickle bar mowing. When you cut grass and weeds with them, the tall stuff lays over and chokes out future growth , thus allowing less mow times durring the season. It would cut the mow times down for road ditches more than 1/2. You would save 10s of thousands in fuel cost with 1/2 less mow overs. Also with the new V cutters and the metal structure on the sickle bar mowers, breaking the cutter is very unlikely. As for your reason for cab tractors, are the operators sissy,s ? Is A/C needed ? Is a radio needed ? Is it worth the extra $30,000.00 per tractor for the frills ? As for someone messing with them, well, they knock out the glass doors on them to screw with them as it is, thats cost $1,000.00 to replace. NOW the red rock vs white rock. 8 years ago the county told us public folks this " the white rock has more dust" true - "the red rock costs 3 times more" true - "the red rock lasts longer"= false, last no longer and absorbs headlights and makes roads unsafe = true The reason they went to red rock was to make the city farmers ( people who moved out on the little city farms bitched about a little dust) Welcome to country living. If you think the county is saving you money by buying high dollar rock thats worthless and tractors and mowers they DONT need , well you deserve to be screwed on your taxes.Chip and seal season is upon us now and the piles of red cosly rock are in place to go down very soon, what a waste of our tax dollars, again. I can say this though. The county guys did an awesome job this winter keeping the roads open, Thank you guys, we appreciate it very much. The overtime was worth every penney.

macncheese 5 years, 1 month ago

Great comments kansasmutt, and to PCC 2013, please don't try and correct the spelling of others when your own comments are full of mistakes. Thanks.

Reuben Turner 5 years, 1 month ago

IT WILL BE REAL INTERESTING TO SEE HOW MANY OF THESE COMPLAINING CLOWNS SHOW UP TO THE MEETING. NEVER OFFERING A REALISTIC SOLUTION, JUST A WHOLE BUNCH OF UNREALISTIC-NEVER CAN GET DONE-UNREALISTIC SOLUTIONS. AND ALWAYS RUNNING OFF AT THE MOUTH TO OTHER FOLKS, BUT NEVER TO THE ONE WHO WANTS TO HEAR THEM. THEN IF THEY AIN'T TALKING, THEY ARE WRITING A WHOLE BUNCH. BLOGGING FOR DAYS AND NEVER WRITING THE IMPORTANT LETTER TO THE ONE'S WHO WANT TO HEAR AND WANT THERE UNREALISTIC SOLUTIONS AND CHILDISH COMPLAINTS. I DO HOPE Y'ALL COMPLAINERS GO TO THE MEETING AND STOP," TALKING LOUD AND SAYING NOTHING"

Godot 5 years, 1 month ago

My guess is that cletus26 is either a county commissioner or someone in county administration, illustrating the reason why"complaining clowns" do not bother to show up at token meetings that are meant to assuage the public conscience, but not affect policy decisions in any manner whatsoever.

cletus26, please defend the decision to give raises to county employees at a time when local business owners are laying off employees, cuttting hours, or even shutting their doors, and when the rate of inflation is flat to negative. Why should county employees be immune to the economic factors that are devasting the private sector?

feetup 5 years, 1 month ago

devastating the private sector, heck yes! I haven't had a raise in 18 months! small company cutbacks have been scandalous at my work at best!

feetup 5 years, 1 month ago

BUT, i am EXTREMELY happy to STILL have a JOB!!! don't get me wrong!

Thinking_Out_Loud 5 years, 1 month ago

cletus doesn't sound that way to me, Godot. I have no problem with raises to county employees (or city or state, for that matter) ~IF~ access to government increases proportionately. I think it is inappropriate that the only time government offices are open are (non-holiday) weekdays, 8-5. Exactly when most citizens are working, too. Meaning that if you or I want to talk to someone about whatever we would go talk to a county bureaucrat about, we have to take time off our jobs.

Godot 5 years, 1 month ago

Dear Thinking_Out_Loud, perhaps you should think quietly before typing. There is nothing in the county budget that proposes that access to government so-called services should increase - this budget assumes that county employees should receive a raise simply because they exist.

That is not a reason.

Thinking_Out_Loud 5 years, 1 month ago

Sniping at other posters (cletus, me, others) does not advance conversation, Godot. Furthermore, I would submit that your premise that "this budget assumes county employees should receive a raise simply because they exist" is a false one. I suspect the County is sophisticated enough to value the pay for its employees on the value of the work assigned to them. There is room for discussion what the value of the assigned duties to the County is, or what need the County has for the work or the employees, or even the capacity of the County to afford remuneration that is proportional to the value of the work. I believe you would find it difficult to find documentation of your premise "simply because they exist" separate from value of the duties or individual merit.

kansasmutt 5 years, 1 month ago

cletus ) This is the otts 2010 and if the county leaders are in tune to this era , they need to jump on the net (here) and see what the taxpayers are telling them. If not , then they need to resign and let someone who knows what the internet is take their place. Most people who own a business DO NOT have the time to go sit in some meeting , because they had to cut staff in their business due to the economy and now have to work 18 hours a day. Not one of the county leaders has taken a minute to answer back to any questions on here, that shows us taxpayers they dont give a rats butt about us. I ask again. COUNTY LEADERS. #1 Why the red rock, not white rock that saves millions ???? #2 Why not open station tractors and save tons of money ????? We are waiting.

jafs 5 years, 1 month ago

You could probably e-mail or snail-mail suggestions to the relevant parties without taking off time from work.

tollef 5 years, 1 month ago

Mr. Fagan,

It would be helpful to include a couple of additional relevent facts in your article. 1) The 2009 County Budget was: $56,356,066 (acutual) 2) The 2010 Budget is: $65,360,208 (current)

The proposed budget of $68,000,000 is an increase of $2,639,792 over the current year budget or an increase of 3.9%. The County budget over the last two years would be increased by $11,643,934 or a 17.1% increase.

It is inaccurate to state that the county commissioners have have "trimmed" the proposed property tax increase from 16.6% to 15.9% "without commissioners having to cut a single project, program or proposal." They have not trimmed anything off of OUR budget, they found an error (of their own making) and corrected it. Then they spin it to you as found savings.

I will now opine: I do not have a problem with a property tax increase, to maintain a level of service in the County. I do have an issue with our "leaders" increasing a budget by over 17% in the past two years in a time when they (and just about every property owner) knew that real estate revenues would be flat to negative. Savings can always be found in any budget whether at home, or at the County level. Commisioners need to make cuts in services,or other "programs"-then and only then will I support an increase- if only to pay for the reckless budgeting over the last two years.

Not a sermon, just a thought.

K_Verses_The_World 5 years, 1 month ago

Got nothing for you, I had nothing before Don’t even have anything for myself anymore

Rufus0U812 5 years, 1 month ago

"Perhaps the most notable is a proposed property tax increase of 5.23 mills, which would cost the owner of a $150,000 home another $90.22 next year. Before Gaughan uncovered the duplicate budget entries, which had added to the county’s projected expenses for next year, the increased cost would have equaled $93.84."

--Do not increase property taxes. As far as Douglas county goes we are already over the National Median for property taxes (NM being: $1,854).

"The increased property taxes would help the county make up for declining revenues, such as a projected $1 million drop in mortgage taxes, plus assist some social services agencies and other projects recover somewhat from state and federal budget cuts. Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, for example, would be able to hire a psychiatrist to serve low-income clients."

---It would be nice if everyone could have a psychiatrist, but this is unnecessary. We each have our own lives to live and are free to decide how to do so. If I wanted a councilor, I would save my money to secure as many meetings as needed...I don't believe in making the people of Douglas County pay for my problems.

"The county also would set aside $500,000 for economic-development efforts, plus another $500,000 for heritage-related efforts and open-space preservation. County employees also would get a 1-percent cost-of-living increase, plus be eligible for merit raises and longevity bonuses."

---So between "economic-development efforts" [whatever those may be] + "heritage-related efforts" [again whatever those may be] + "open-space preservation" [again whatever this might be] = $1,000,000.

---Now let's consider County employees receiving a "1% cost-of-living increase" [before someone predictably says 'well we well have to cut: police, teachers, and firefights']. When a fire/med worker finally retires they are paid roughly 80% of whatever their last year's total earnings were, for the rest of their lives (this does not include the benefits such as medical etc.). So a fire/med employee gets 1% more this year + a merit raise(s) + greater longevity bonuses....think about paying that person 80% of what they made in the last year for the rest of their lives--retired: as in not working any longer.

---I find it amazing that the public sector just continues to grow heavier and heavier as the legs are taxed out from underneath the unsuspecting tax payer. If Douglas County wants to meet its financial quota, cut public spending first and stop proposing to raise taxes.

wdl 5 years, 1 month ago

There are plenty of ways to cut expenses to save the county money. The first to look at is what does the county need compared to what the county wants. Just like your home budget. Cut out the unnecessary "want" stuff and focus on the "need must have stuff". You will find a good deal of excess in administrative costs. Combine functions, reduce staff and or proposed wage increases. Submit for re-bids on health insurance coverage. Cut down on the number of cars and trucks and other equipment not really needed.

I have been involved in many budget developing processes and you can always cut more than you think. You really, really have not been serious about this. It has to hurt before you can say to yourself you are really cutting back. Cutting back to most people is trimming a cheeseburger a week from their diet. The diet itself is the problem! That is what must change.

15-16% incrrease in my real estate taxes is going to result in me not voting for any of the encumbents next election. Your proposal is obscene and unreasonable. You all should be fired for even proposing such a thing. Do you know what is going on in the world around you. Most of us do not care about all of the preservation and heritage balony.

Why is the answer to most budget short falls to just go to the tax payer well for another bucket of money. We are taxed out.

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