Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Campaign 2011:And so it begins

Has the 2011 Campaign begun already?

We have not even reached the Nov. 2 elections yet but it appears that local officials here in Chesterfield County have already begun there campaigns for their re-election cycle by once again playing politics with citizens tax dollars.

I have to admit it was pretty unbelievable given these economic times and the tone right now of the electorate in general that our local government is considering a 3% bonus to be paid to certain government employees. I mean wasn't it about eight months ago we were talking budget deficits for schools and facing a reduced State-funding component? How can the local government feel confident that we are not going to face even tougher times ahead?

Isn't the County collecting less revenue than the last few years? I understand that the County has lowered its overall budget by 34 million or 4% for this coming year, but at a time when the times are forcing our government to make due with less I question whether it is constructive at this juncture to use the surplus in the form of a bonus plan.

The bonus was one of the potential uses of the surplus the County experienced at the close of the fiscal year in June. Allan M. Carmody, Director of Budget and Management for the County listed the 3% bonus as one of the options that the 28.5 million dollar surplus could be used for. The 3% bonus would cost the County 4.75 million of the total surplus.

The 3% bonus is basically a 3% of current salary for those employed by the County for at least one full year. One full year? Comments from local officials do not see to illustrate the one full year component given the fact that Supervisor Daniel Gecker from Midlothian stated that the bonus should be paid to employees given it was there work that provided the surplus.

The notion of returning such surplus to taxpayers or not spending it at all appears void of Mr. Gecker's political DNA. It appears as though some local officials like Mr. Gecker feel compelled to spend the surplus no matter what. Mr. Carmody referred to the 3% bonus plan as "performance recognition".

Performance recognition? Given the fact that the County has failed to accurately budget in the past, how confident are they that they will get all the State resources that they think are coming. Chances are they will, but isn't the role of government to budget and spend based on what they know and not what they hope. At this point, officials have to know that the collection of revenues will be less than years past and thus far the 4% or so cuts that have already been made are commendable but do those cuts warrant a "performance recognition".

As it stands today, two officials in Supervisor Gecker and Holland have endorsed the 3 % bonus plan recommended by Mr. Carmody.

Mr. Gecker went own to express that "we cut hopefully as much as we have to cut" referring apparently to the 4% reduction in spending, but it begs the question why would not our leaders seek to continually cut out the waste and bloat in the County budget. Why must the cuts stop now merely because the budget office anticipates a surplus?

The Board of Supervisors at large however have agreed to defer the matter until its Nov. 17th meeting.