Saturday, August 29, 2009

Remember, It's Your Money

My anonymous "fan" from my previous budget post is back, this time with some comments on my budget update congratulating Ada County residents on a higher tax rate.

This "fan" says that my $1,000,000 cut would have reduced the budget by "only" 1.6%. I suppose that a cut so small is not worth doing, although if every one of the taxing entities in Ada County reduced their budgets by 1.6%, that would have ended up as a major reduction in people's property tax bills. But actually, the reduction I proposed was 3.15% since it only reduced the property tax portion of the budget. If you reduce $31.7 million by $1 million, that equals 3.15%.

However, even if it was only 1.6%, it's the principle of the thing. Ada County citizens are seeing the equity in their houses go down, their wages go down, their hours of employment go down, their businesses close, their neighbors or themselves losing their jobs, etc. (Yes "fan", these are generalities, but that's the trend.) Yet, here we have a government agency that feels it knows better how to spend your money than you do. And it IS your money - never forget that and don't let government officials forget that either.

I really believe that my proposed cuts should have been made. Lobbyists, non litigating lawyers and publicity people are luxuries that taxpayers should not have to fund - whether we have the money or not.


At August 30, 2009 at 10:58 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not only the principle, it's the reality of "government creep" (I'm speaking of the financial aspect, not the personality aspect). So your fan scoffs at a 1.3 or 1.6 percent decrease? That's money I would just as soon have in my pocket as in ACHD's.

If left alone, government agencies will continuously creep deeper and deeper into our pockets -- they seem to develop an "entitlement" mentality. It may only be 1%, 2%, or 3% a year but that's real money and it has a real impact on taxpayers over time. When we are nonchalant about what appears to be a small increase or the potential of a decrease, however small on a percentage basis, we end up paying for that nonchalance in real dollars.

All government agencies manage to have built-in slush funds -- it's just human nature. Have we all forgotten Brent Coles and his Amish fireplace, visit to LaDeDah, expensive meals or limo rides to visit Mormon temples, etc. -- none of those items appeared in the approved Boise City budget. And yet the taxpayers of Boise paid for them. I'm still waiting for my refund.

At August 31, 2009 at 4:02 PM , Blogger Eric said...

Just a couple comments. I agree wholeheartedly that any amount saved is good. And in my book, $1 million is fabulous.

Secondly, it sounds to me as if the other anonymous commenter is saying that cuts made previously allowed them to keep this year's budget the same as the last.. and takes credit for 4% in cuts. You can't claim that by not spending as much money as you might have, that you have cut the budget. You do get credit for making cuts, though.

Third, it's not really useful to talk about the levy rate... rather it's the dollars that people actually pay that counts. In this case, the rate went up, but actual dollars remained the same. In general people do not benefit when their house value goes up, nor are they harmed when it goes down... assuming they don't buy or sell. So as a practical matter, my taxes for ACHD remained unchanged. And they could have gone down had your proposals been adopted.

At September 4, 2009 at 7:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Commissioner Baker,

When you discussed the budget, you did not specify the property tax portion of the budget, or the entire budget. To the general public, the budget is the budget, all of it. And it apparently started at approximately $83M. How did the budget drop down to the $78.7M end state, and why didn't you mention any of the discussion that went on in not increasing the budget?

At NO time did I say that $1M is a tiny or unimportant amount of money, what I did was show was that when it is spread out among all of the residents of Ada County it isn't as much as people really think. In previous posting, I questioned you if you were going to make the really hard decision to defer or cancel a project - and you did not answer that question.

While you may riducule and ignore my comments and questions, which I understand is totally your right, I wonder why you do so? I realize it is easy, and appeals to a certain portion of the popiulation, but I believe that I have asked legitimate questions.

Did you work with the other four Commissioners to ry to come up with a proposal to make significant, multi-million dollar reductions to the budget, which would have reduced the amount of taxes the I and the rest of the residents of Ada County pay? While I do not agree with you on a number of your policies, I would have been interested to see a significant reduction that a major project delay might have provided. Was there any discussion of such a cut?

One other thing, while I understand the taxpayer has a legitimate right to expect government should be spending their money in the wisest, most beneficial manner to realize the biggest bang for the buck, over time costs do go up. In the past several years, Red China (sorry, but I'm old school) has been on a massive construction project, and has been buying concrete, steel and other materials across the globe at very good prices. For US industries to compete, they have had to beat the Chinese bids or do without. In some cases the US has done without. In other cases, the US has paid the significantly increased cost to get the materials. In a global economy, if you wan the resources you will have to pay the going rate or go without. When oil spiked above $140 a barrel, asphalt and road oil was VERY expensive - and American and Ada County paid the prices to get them.

Oh, and again, I believe that this will be the second year that your employees are NOT getting any Cost of Living increases, and, for the most part ACHD has NOT hired any of the positions that are unfilled due to retirements, deaths and other absences - is that correct? If so, where are the increased costs coming from that would necissitate a larger budget? Could it be simply the cost of materials and 'doing business"? While you may need to ask the staff of ACHD - I really would like to know and not just be ridiculed. As one of your constituents I think I deserve that right


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