district 2 county commissioner
It is often said that the borrower is slave to the lender. Out of control spending is not limited to just Washington, D.C. anymore. It is happening right here in our very own back yard. Elected officials need to be candid, open, and honest with those that we are elected to serve and represent.
We need to stop the Washington style politics of spin that is going on right here in Coffee County. Some elected leaders want you to think that we do not have a spending problem and that our county is in great financial shape. In a recently published guest editorial from the County Mayors office, the taxpayers of our county were told a fairy tale story of spin about how great our county’s financial health is and that it is due to great leadership. The story ended with the obligatory “happily ever
Unfortunately, the financial numbers referenced were nearly five years old and today the actual numbers tell a much different tale. In the editorial spin, it was stated that our county had an unreserved fund balance (amount of money on hand that is not allocated to a certain project – in essence a “rainy day” fund) of $1.8 million dollars.
As of last week, our actual unreserved fund balance was $746,063. That’s nearly 60% less than we were lead to believe in the original editorial. Also, as of today our county has a total debt of $34,066,134. That’s just the principal. With interest our total debt is $66,549,022.00. Now add in the estimated $19,900,080 that the new jail construction will cost (more on that in a moment) PLUS interest and we are looking at a total debt burden (principle and interest) of close to a whopping
$100 million. Let me repeat that: A total debt burden of nearly $100 million According to the fairytale editorial we were also lead to believe that our debt burden is a mere $815 per person and that the amount is more than sustainable.
In Coffee County we have 52,796 people. Divide that by the more accurate figure of $100,000,000 and we are looking at $1,894 for every man, woman and child in the county – not the $815. That’s more than double what we were told.
Now back to the new jail for a moment. The estimated cost of the new jail does not include increased utilities, new equipment, new furniture, additional staffing, inmate transportation from the new jail back to the old jail for court proceedings etc. that will be needed to actually operate the new jail. So in reality, we could be looking beyond the $100,000,000 total debt burden mark and an additional several million dollars of new expenditures just to open the new jail facility.
Since 2006 our debt has more than doubled. Can we afford to continue this Washington style increase to our debt burden during this record recession and with historically high unemployment levels?
As of last week, the County Mayor’s office stated that we would not need a tax increase to fund the building of a new 20+ million dollar jail as well as a 24+ million dollar new school. Should we really believe that to be the case?
When I ran for office in 2010, I warned people of an upcoming Wheel Tax. The County Mayor’s office stated last May that there was “no need” and “no discussion” of a Wheel Tax even after Mayor Pennington personally and publicly endorsed one.
Just a few months later, I voted against the Wheel Tax that there was “no need” for and “no discussion” of and helped defeat it from being imposed on our county.
With this out of control spending, another tax increase is on the horizon because unlike Washington, we cannot print our own money. Our spending is killing the future ability of our County to survive. One last thought as I close. At what point do the people of Coffee County decide that they can no longer continue to cut their personal budgets in order to pay their county’s tax and spend addiction? Why do we not expect the County to cut its budget instead? It is not a new concept for those of
us at home so why is it such an unreasonable request to make of our County government?