Not really priorities
The priority-based budgeting the Douglas County government was supposed to adopt is missing in action. The Board of County Commissioners’ piecemeal funding of spending items isn’t part of a comprehensive budget plan, nor is much of the spending what most people would define as prioritized.
With the start of the new year and a new mix of commissioners, many of us had hoped that the bad old days of scattershot spending were gone. Not so.
One example of this came up a few weeks ago when a parade of charitable organizations appeared before commissioners for their annual grants. A children’s club with $5 million in the bank received a $25,000 gift from the county tax and fee payers. Eighty children had to have their ski trips funded to save them from juvenile delinquency, we were told. Peruse the minutes of this year’s commissioners’ meetings to see similar examples.
Last year the county’s indigent fund was raided to help pay for the new senior center. This was justified, as I understand it, because the state was threatening to sweep unused money from the fund [abbreviated “ST MV ACCID” on your property tax bill]. If the state is going to take the money anyway, why not redirect the tax revenue from this item to infrastructure maintenance?
Recently it came out that, in spite of the bond money financed by a utility tax hike, the senior center project will run out of money before a functional interior is built. That persuaded me to become a strong advocate of AB387, a bill which will “ . . . requir[e] that certain proposals relating to bonding by a municipality in certain smaller counties be approved by two-thirds of the electors of the municipality,” being considered in Nevada’s Assembly Government Affairs Committee.
That wouldn’t prevent a bond issue to pay for infrastructure repair with debt serviced by the hopefully renamed indigent fund revenue stream. It would be a better use of the county’s resources and would deserve voter approval.
Readers should attend commissioners and budget hearing meetings and express their support for priority-based spending. Whenever the topic of paying for infrastructure maintenance comes up, some in government – and at least one windy guest editorialist – have suggested that the county’s tax-averse voters can hardly expect infrastructure maintenance without ponying up more taxes.
Here’s a news flash: County voters are tapped out. Unemployment has stayed stubbornly above normal, gas is double what it was before Obama, and near-zero interest means savings accounts are losing buying power to rising consumer prices. Commissioners should cut funding for nonpriority items and redirect revenue streams to meet the county’s fundamental obligation to maintain infrastructure.