Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

Opinion

October 8, 2011

County budget being handled wrong

JACKSONVILLE — During the 2000s, Cherokee County had essentially zero dollars left in county funds — broke. The county government adopted a Need to Have concept to gail back financial stability. By the year 2006, the county funds were back to $6 million and sufficient funds to cover unforeseen emergencies. (Cherokee County needs $4 million to $5 million in reserves to achieve the 25 percent of annual operating budgets.)

In 2010 the county had $9.5 million in reserve — $4.5 million from the County Reserve Fund will be used to balance the 2011 budget. The big spenders have used another $2.8 million of the County Reserve Fund to balance the 2012 budget. This is in addition to $0.4 million by adding 2 cents to the taxpayers' property taxes.

Only $2.8 million will be left in the County Reserve Fund at the end of the 2012 budget year, or less than 15 percent of the Annual Operating Budget for unanticipated emergencies.

Where has the $7 million gone? You could start by viewing each county precinct equipment yard. Four separate precincts fully equipped with the finest near-new equipment (usually two of each) and $30,000 top-of-the-line pick-up trucks. When you see each of the precinct commissioners, remember how they have impacted the financial stability of Cherokee County. The $7 million in county funds are gone and only $2.8 million left at the end of the 2012 budget year. Another $1.5 million has been included for the paving and oil materials has been included by the four precincts in the 2012 budget to continue their aggressive program to pave selected roads — nice-to-have, not need-to-have projects..

 Soon taxpayers will be asked for increases in property taxes to cover this spending. The commissioners' job description states only that they assure county roads are maintained. For simple business economics and without using the additional $2.8 million from the County Surplus Fund, the options would have been:

1. Reduce the county budget to essentially the county revenue for 2012 — $16.4 million, not $19.2 million

2. Increase county property tax another 12-14 cents per $100 appraisal value.

The $2.8 million from county reserve funds would seem to the commissioners a better option than the above two options, considering the upcoming re-election year. The topics I have discussed thus far will be detailed as the final numbers come in for the 2011 year-end spending. What is happening to our county government is wrong, wrong, wrong.

H.V. Jones,

Rusk

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