Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Times Argues that Lake County Must Pinch Pennies

From the Northwest Indiana Times:

An Indiana University Northwest report for Lake County recommends fiscal restraint. That's like shouting at the horses after leaving the barn door standing open.
The 67-page study of county government finances by IUN's Center for Urban and Regional Excellence looked at county finances now that a 1.5 percent income tax has been established.
The County Council asked for this study to ensure the income tax rate is the right solution even as other revenues dwindle.
The money has been a windfall, to be sure.
As much as residents love to hate the income tax, it was inevitable. Property tax caps and low collection rates, in some areas, reduced revenue. 
The county shed 300 jobs — a good start — to balance the budget, but other expenses increased. The Lake County Jail, for example, is much more expensive to operate now because of improvements to meet federal standards. 
But without exercising restraint in the future, Lake County could be in another fiscal emergency.
Showing restraint is not the county's strong point, however. Nor is it a strong suit for the county's municipalities.
Raises should not have been granted so quickly with the new income tax revenue.
The report urges the county to provide mayors forecasts of the impact each of the county's 73 taxing units will see from the property tax circuit breaker.
What Lake County needs — and Porter County, too — is long-term forecasting for both revenue trends and capital and other needs.
That, and fiscal restraint. That cannot be overemphasized. Now is not the time to embark on spending sprees. Caution must be the watchword while finances remain in flux.