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Cutting wants to provide for needs

web posted May 14, 2007
OPINION – There is very little “debating” going on during the three month debate by the Edgefield County Council for the upcoming fiscal year’s budget. That is not a good thing. County Council Chairman Monroe Kneece has publicly stated that the Sheriff’s budget is scrutinized more than any other and the county council removed the much-needed additional deputies from the budget unless they are provided through a grant. Perhaps the County Council needs to take a look at cleaning up their own back yard before they scrutinize another elected official’s budget. If they do they will discover almost half a million in waste and pork in their own budget.

The first and most obvious cut would provide $87,327 towards the new deputies. This could be easily accomplished by cutting the county council’s miscellaneous funds from $167,327 to a generous $80,000. That would allow for the county council to spend $1,500 a week on whatever and still have money left over at the end of the year. In fact, cutting the council’s miscellaneous funds for the council chambers would save another $1,800 a year.

$26,000 or more could be saved by disallowing an additional clerk for the Tax Assessor’s office.

A large portion of the money could be found by removing the county recreation as a millage on the tax bill and place it under the responsibility of the general fund as it was originally shown. Cutting the budget to provide for the Director and a vehicle only at a cost of just under $60,000 would bring an additional $230,000 in savings. Recreation was promised as being self-sufficient by the county council when taken in by the county and the taxpayer should hold them to that promise.

Other cuts that are possible would be reducing funding of non-profits by $16,000 combined with cost effective energy management of the counties buildings would net in over $15,000 in savings, adding over $30,000 to available funds.

A review of “special contracts” budgeted by the county, internet fees, and professional services could possibly provide for an addition $100,000 or more for over a $500,000 that could be used for providing additional deputies to police the county.

Would the cuts affect the function of the county government? No, it does not remove any current employees or positions, though it does eliminate a wanted added position by the Tax Assessor’s Office. Rather than sending two workers out to take a picture of a house perhaps the assessor can get by with one and leave the other tending to other business.

Elected leaders lose sight of the distinction of wants and needs. People want recreation but it is not a need. Our county has three very basic needs that have to be met; fire, EMS, and law enforcement. These areas must be a priority to our elected leaders.

County leaders also lose sight of the savings that would come as a result of hiring additional deputies. Presently the county funds enough overtime in the Sheriff’s Office to provide for at least three deputies. We are already paying for additional deputies so we should have them on the road. Granted, adding deputies will not remove the need for overtime, bomb threats and emergencies happen, but it will affect the amount of overtime needed as additional manpower is already on active duty.

The county would also see a savings with patrol cars lasting twice as long. Rather than adding around 300 miles per car per shift the millage would drop to around half as deputies are not traveling from one end of the county and back responding to calls. Deputies patrolling a particular area of the county would handle the calls there or back up another deputy in the next area if needed. This would also increase response times drastically and reduce fuel costs per car per shift.

Within this editorial is funding for at least six deputies without raising taxes. It will be widely touted by government officials as unsustainable when in reality it is generous from a practical and cursory examination of how our tax dollars are appropriated.

Will non-profits wanting your money complain? Of course they will. They all survive by running around with their hands out to local government bodies for your tax money. After the needs of the taxpayer are met such entities are welcome to ask for help. In fact, even with the suggested cuts almost all are still funded with a more than charitable amount of money.

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