COMMENTARY: Tough Decisions Required On Budget

KEVIN HALPERN, Courier Co-Editor

According to those persons who prepare the budget to operate Cannon County government, including schools, it is necessary to raise the property tax 20 cents in order to fund the proposed budget for the current fiscal year.

Failure to do so will create a monetary shortfall of around $400,000 — unless cuts are made.

When Cannon County, or any government, formulates a yearly budget, there is always a certain amount of guesswork involved.

Those preparing the budget can eliminate much of the guesswork by making projections based upon revenues and expenses from the previous year's budget.

Most of the expenses carry over from year-to-year.  For instance, every budget contains money for employees. Government can't operate and provide services without workers.

There are also aways expenses for office materials and supplies, building and vehicle upkeep and repairs, gasoline, electricty, water, etc.

However, the cost of those expenses can vary from year-to-year. Insurance and gasoline costs can rise and fall. Medical expenses at the Cannon County Jail, for instance, change based upon the number of inmates who require care.

There are also unforeseen expenses, such as a patrol car or ambulance breaking down, or a heating and air unit at a school becoming unworkable.

Unknowns exist too when it comes to revenue projections. Property and sales tax collections can rise and fall significantly depending on the overall economy of the country.

Government will always tax us. We are not going to wake up one day and find that we are no longer going to be taxed for government services. Government will always say it needs more money to serve us. Government will always say people will suffer if we don't give it more money.

Some people will contend their is pork in government. No doubt there is. There is certainly more in a government, such as the federal goverment, which seemingly has a never-ending limit on the amount of money it can spend. Cannon County does not fall in that category.

For national politians, the more they can spend, the better. It helps them get reelected. It doesn't always do much for our country. For local politicians, the best course of action usually is to spend as little money as they can, and get the most  bang for the bucks as is possible.

County govenments can't afford a lot of pork in their budgets. That's not to say they don't have a little fat, but that's both desireable and, in some cases, required.

In a county as small as Cannon, it is relatively easy to see where, and to whom, tax money goes. It goes to fund the offices and people who work in the Cannon County Courthouse, the Election Office, the Sheriff's Department, in the school's Central Office, at its seven schools, etc.

State law mandates that all of those services be provided. It does not mandate the number of people required to provide them.

State law does not mandate the provision of ambulance, fire, trash disposal, senior citizen or library services, but many counties find it desireable to do so.

The commission's Budget Committee cut close to $500 from budget requests during the process of formulating the proposed budget. If the commission decides that more spending cuts are in order to eliminate the need for an additional $400,000 at this time, it seems pretty obvious at this point where they will have to start — in the offices of county government. That's already happening in the school system.

Cannon County has been able to balance its budget the last few years by dipping into its savings, or reserve fund. It's about to run dry. Some tough decisions will have to be made in the next month of so with respect to the budget, and it is up to the people of Cannon County, and their elected officials, to make them.