cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner
Governor Doyle, late yesterday afternoon, held a press conference to tell reporters that he was going to have to reduce local government and local school revenue sharing by some 2.5%. That brings several things to mind.
First, he would have us believe that he cannot possibly cut more than 1,400 state employees. He would have us believe that there are no "make work" wastes of taxpayer money that could be killed. He would have us believe that all the new programs he has included in his budget are necessary to our very existence. I don't believe that for an instant.
Second, this means that we taxpayers are still not done paying for the frivolity of past years and the current impact of an economic downturn. After witnessing all kinds of new fees/taxes to support existing and newly created programs, we are now going to be given the "opportunity" to take on more local taxes for both schools and local government. This points up the taxing debacle that is MATC, and augers for real systemic changes in the manner in which technical colleges are funded and in which their governing boards are composed.
Third, we must now become even more vigilant so far as the temptations that will be faced by our elected school board members who could seize this opportunity to increase school taxes beyond the point absolutely necessary just because they have the political cover provided by the governor.
Fourth, we must now become even more vigilant so far as the temptations that will be faced by our village trustees and the village president who could also seize this opportunity to raise taxes beyond that which is absolutely necessary just because they, too, have been given political cover. The same can be said for our Washington County officials.
All this having been said, there are things that are absolutely essential and that should not be placed on the chopping block. Basic school services must be provided, however any "nice to have" budget items that can be deferred should be closely examined.
Similarly, the village budget should be examined very closely, especially by the new trustees since they will be getting their first swing at the ball. Fresh eyes can sometimes see things that tired eyes have missed. If there is ever to be anything remotely approaching a "zero-based" budget cycle, this is probably it. If there are non-essential things in the various budgets, very close scrutiny needs be directed at those items.
Last, but by no means least, cutting fat is fine; cutting muscle and bone is not fine. We have essential services and those must be fully funded, at least at the prior year's level and, ideally, with inflation-based adjustments. Those services, from my perspective, include both our fire and our police protection. Cutting either for the sake of cutting must be avoided at all costs. Simply because there seems no problem, given good levels of service, that does not give credence to thoughts that there must be some slack in those budgets.
The Curmudgeon Blog today is titled "Lessons From California"