Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Times Argues "Mantra for Lake County: Just say no"

From the Northwest Indiana Times:

The Lake County Council will hear many long-winded reasons for increasing spending for various departments, but the county's primary response should include just two letters: N-O.
Lake County department heads are submitting budgets that reflect the twin windfalls the county will receive -- money from a property tax levy that finally has thawed; and the other big revenue boost, Lake becoming the final Indiana county to adopt the income tax.
However, it must be remembered that a rags-to-riches story can be followed by a riches-to-rags story. There are many tales of lottery winners who become spendthrifts and go bankrupt. Learn from their examples.
Remember that department heads are submitting wish lists for spending next year, and not all wishes can or should be granted. While saying no can be painful, it's necessary. It's all a matter of priorities.
Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey said she needs an additional $112,000 to pay for autopsies. "They do one to four every day, six days a week," she said.
Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said $5 million more is needed to maintain sanitation, health care and inmate safety at the jail.
Another $3 million is sought for bridges and flood control, and $7 million will be sought for employee pensions and health benefits which should not be underfunded, as our friends in Illinois now know.
But though all of this seems reasonable, remember that Lake County was forced to borrow $15 million to make ends meet this year. While the county is getting more money next year, it won't be enough to meet all the demands for it.
Besides, just because there's extra money coming in doesn't mean the county should go on a spending spree. Instead, develop a strategy for how to get the best bang for those bucks.
"I'm prepared to say no to everything," Council President Ted Bilski said. That's the attitude the council will need so it doesn't become like those lottery winners who squandered their jackpots.
Think thrift, not spendthrift.