How to Cut a Budget, Plus How to Provide Political Camouflage for Incumbent McHenry County Board Members
You really won’t know it until you get your tax bill, but the McHenry County Board decided to sweep the table of as much of our money as its members could take when they passed this year’s budget. See
I’ve been meaning to write this commentary since I heard that the County Board’s Finance Committee had decided it couldn’t cut the budget for the coming year because it was too far along.
The best one word reaction I can come up with that I feel free to put in McHenry County Blog is “Balderdash!”
Now, what background might give me the expertise to make that conclusion?
My first job out of the University of Michigan’s Institute of Public Administration was with the United States Budget Bureau. (Now, it’s called the Office of Management and Budget.)
My budget was that of the largest independent agency in the national government, the Small Business Administration.
It didn’t have many line items.
So, I met with the SBA officials, its Economist, its Budget Officer (who, when I told him I was returning to McHenry County to run for County Treasurer in early 1966, opened his bottom desk drawer and pulled out a six-pack of Goldwater) and others trying to figure out what was going and what was needed.
My Section Chief was Sam Lawrence.
It took me three times to get it right.
The first time I met with him, I presented numbers which he said were too high.
I went back and re-evaluated my suggestions.
The second time I got the same reaction.
I was recommending too high a budget.
The third time got him exasperated.
“Cal,” he said, “You just don’t understand.”
Then, he pointed to the bottom line and wrote a number.
“I don’t care what the numbers above that line are, but I want that number on the bottom!”
He was clearing exasperated that this new Management Intern hadn’t caught on quicker.
Before I was hired, he asked my Senior Budget Examiner Roger Adkins, who had advanced to a Division Chief handing the country’s transportation budget when I last saw him in 1972, whether he could work with “a Goldwater Republican.”
My 1965 resume made clear that I was a Republican, but it was my father who had the “AUH20″ bumper sticker. My mother and I were for Governor Bill Scranton in 1964.
Roger, a genial guy who always seemed to be smiling, told Lawrence he could work with anybody.
So, what’s the relevance to the McHenry County Board’s budget making process?
If the County Board didn’t want to raise our taxes, it could have have asked for (levied) less than the maximum allowed by the Property Tax Cap (PTELL to those who don’t use the common name).
The County Board members could have cut their levy 1.47783%.
And told the Finance Committee to cut the budget the same proportion.
In short, the Board members could have followed Sam Lawrence’s example.
They could have told the Finance Committee and the administrators who follow their direction that they didn’t really care where the cuts came from, just to do it.
And, as I did 46 1/2 years ago, they would have done it.
It does not take a year=long process to do that.
So, what does the process announced without criticism that I have seen on the front page of the Northwest Herald and more recently in the TribLocal do?
It provided “cover” for those who voted against cutting back the tax take to last year’s level.
Who gets protection?
Those voting against cutting the budget are below. (The vote was 11-11 and because of the way the motion was made a tie vote defeated it.)
- Bob Bless (D1)
- Scott Breeden (D2)
- Mary Donner (D3)
- Jim Heisler (D2)
- John Jung (D5)
- Donna Kurtz (D2)
- Mary McCann (D6)
- Peter Merkel (D4)
- Marc Muneratto (D1)
- Kathy Schmidt (D3)
- Ken Koehler (D2)
Those on the ballot for re-election are in bold face type. All who voted to cut the budget are on the ballot.
= = = = =
Tomorrow, a legislative suggestion to fix one concern of tax district officials.