Thursday, June 17, 2004

The Commission Blinks

Word comes today that the County Commission has found new sources of funds, new places to cut and new revenue streams yet untapped. It seems "doomsday" may yet be averted for a County facing a 17% cut in Sheriff's funding.
The plan, however, would still call for millions in widespread reductions, including a possible $2 million trim in funding for the Regional Medical Center at Memphis. A $1 million cut in library funding would remain in the budget as well as the proposed closing of the Shelby Show Place Arena, county rifle range and other reductions.

The strategy relies in part on nearly $7 million in funds earmarked for future debt payments that would be spent now to help balance the budget.
Spending payments meant to put us ahead just to tread water and avoid the poltically unpalatable? Not a good sign.
The compromise, which still would slice the Sheriff's Office budget by $4 million, would restore proposed cuts in funding to the gang and narcotics units and avoid a 30 percent reduction in deputy patrols....

In addition, to close a $5 million budget gap that would remain, Huntzicker said the county could trim funding for The Med. The hospital recently got a $22.2 million transfusion from the state, up from $12 million the year before. Huntzicker said the county also could speed up the planned sale of some county buildings and restrict spending of central operations by $2 million.
Getting out my calculator, I come up with $25 million from the numbers above. The closings of the Show Place Arena, shooting range, etc., according to the Mayor's Revised Budget Proposal, come to less than a million, though that section of the Budget Revised also talks about Sheriff's reductions in the tens of millions. So, it's hard to calculate, but it still seems like a large gap remains.
Spending the funds now will increase the county's debt costs next year, but Huntzicker said the money can be made up by finding new sources of revenue, such as a real estate transfer tax or impact fee.
Ahhhh! So, they will keep your property taxes the same, but find new ways to tax you or increase fees and taxes most folks don't pay.

This budget is still not responsible. It doesn't appear to address functional changes in operations, but merely makes large one-time cuts that will leave us in the same place next year.

I suppose there's something to be said for making such drastic cuts at all. The basic philosphy throughout this charade has been to hold the line on spending, not in any kind of responsible way mind you, but they are cutting. I'm still holding my final opinions for the end of this process. One of the ways that Wharton proposed to balance his initial budget, the one the Commission rejected leading us to this point, was with $8 million in "future unrealised revenue." That's government-speak for "taxes we haven't put into place but expect to."

I'm still trying to find a detail of the budget, so I can look at what's still being preserved in the spending for next year. For all the help I get, I still encounter runaround and unanswered emails. I'll keep you posted.

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