Feedback for FY 2019 Budget

Focus on the Big $$$ Issues, not the micro stuff

Folks, if we are going to "engage," let's focus on the larger fiscal issues, not the trivial stuff. As a matter of policy.

 

There have been some well-meaning suggestions about collecting more from County residents for this and that. From the fiscal point of view, there is little payoff to the County budget to focus on increasing trivial fees. It costs money to collect and track these small amounts, and the total raised doesn't help the County on much larger revenue and expenditure issues. Economists and tax authorities do NOT recommend this kind of micro-level intervention. This kind of small scale well-you-use-this-and-I-use-that-stuff also pits people against each other, as many have pointed out, and divides community when we should be building it. These are public goods, not individual entitlements, and we all pay for them and all benefit from living in a community with them.

 

The Budget roundtables are a good idea but the Budget Office erred in designing them. It is just inexperience that leads anyone in County government to encourage micro nit-picking. In my session, a staff member asked the group to discuss if the County should "for example" start charging for leaf bags. No, it is not a good use of our time to go that direction, for all sorts of reasons. Leaf collection, street cleaning and so on are part of our environmental compliance with EPA rules. Why would we ever throw that out as a possibility?

 

Much better to discuss what to do with the County budget surplus and how to avoid "gold-plated projects"/overspending for both schools and county facilities. I note that neither of these topics were discussion questions -- instead we had the absurd "well, what would people be willing to pay a little more for?"

 

So let's steer the roundtables and Budget office to do better next time by suggesting a more productive use of our time. Which is the big stuff. Get the big stuff right and we'll be fine. The little stuff is all distraction and mirrors, and I do hope that wasn't deliberate. The big stuff is property taxes, budget surplus, Metro, and fixed costs, and -- never forget -- overly fancy projects and schools with escalating price tags and maintenance. Keep it simple. Follow the money.

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Idea No. 45