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August 28, 2009

Balancing the Budget: an exercise in evaluating the role of county government

The past several weeks have been very interesting and active for the Whitley County Council.  We have met many times outside of our regularly-scheduled council meetings to discuss the 2010 budget and to meet with department heads to determine where to reduce spending.  While some bemoan this exercise as difficult and unfair to local government, I am pleased to have the opportunity to examine where our tax dollars are spent and therefore examine the proper role of government in our county.  This exercise has led to many painful, yet well thought out, researched and necessary decisions to cut spending.

I’m proud to report that the most recent version of the proposed 2010 county general budget shows that the council has effectively eliminated $2 million in spending.  However, we still have difficult work to do as we search for another $1 million to cut to reach our goal of a $8.2 million budget.  We meet again on Wednesday, September 9 at 8 a.m. to continue our deliberations with the hope to approve the 2010 budget at our October council meeting.  I hope that you will consider attending these council meetings to give us input and to learn more about this very interesting process. 

On another note, I have been pleased by the public input I’ve received on the health insurance issue for County Council members.  Like the Humane Society issue previously covered in this column, in the grand scheme of things, the health insurance topic is relatively insignificant in dollars but substantial in principle.  There is a clear disagreement on council as to whether members deserve taxpayer-funded health insurance.  My motion to eliminate the insurance perk was not meant in disrespect to those members who take it, but rather as a necessary consideration given our task to eliminate $3 million in the budget.   I believe that because none of us work full-time as council members, we do not deserve free health care funded by taxpayers.  While disappointed in the 3-4 failing vote, I am glad the council took up the issue and can have civil discussions on issues like this.  I expect we will hear more on this topic as one of the four members who voted against my motion is interested in a compromise. 

I’m curious to hear what you think.  Please contact me at any time by email at jbanks@hagermangc.com

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