You may remember my critique of the County Board’s budget limiting efforts.
My May 30th article was entitled, “County Board Just Can’t Say, ‘No New Taxes.‘”
The guts of the article was this table:
Approximate 20 Year Effects of Not Taking CPI Increase on Future Levies
The implication I see is that county government would lose almost $60 million over twenty years if it does not take every dime that the Property Tax Cap law allows.
Another way of looking at the data is that taxpayers would save about $60 million if allowed inflationary tax hikes were not taken.
And what are the reasons to want the money?
“…the County Board will allow usage of the CPI to cover only the additional increased costs of
- union/non-union wage adjustments,
- health insurance increases,
- pension increases,
- utilities (electricity, natural gas, water & sewer) and
- all other new costs that have been presented and approved by the County Board (without source of funding stated) since the passage of the fiscal year 2012 budget up to the passage of this budget policy.
I assume most followers of government know that salaries are about 80% of the total cost.
The above list doesn’t leave a lot out, does it?
But, if you want to shrink government, you must limit its growth.
When we were in our first four years (1973-77) in the House of Representatives, Don Totten (R-Schaumburg) revised my view of budgeting. He convinced me that the only way to keep government from spending money was to limit taxes.
Increasing government by the increase in the CPI doesn’t do that of course.
I have related elsewhere the lesson that by United States Bureau of the Budget Section Chief Sam Lawrence taught me.
I could characterize it as “bottom line budgeting.”
While my responsibility was for the largest independent agency in the Federal government, the Small Business Administration, the lesson I learned was that someone higher that I had decided how much the SBA would get in the next budget year.
“Need” was irrelevant.
It took me three trips to his office down the hall in the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House to learn that lesson.
That’s why I suggested the County Board take the easy way out last year.
Just decide how much you want the budget to go up and tell the county’s budget people to make it happen.
Instead there was a protracted series of Finance Committee meetings which seem to have resulted in pretty much guaranteeing that next year’s county budget will increase by the maximum amount allowed by the Real Estate Tax Cap (PTELL to technocrats).
Since the end of May, I learned in a front page story by Kevin Craver in the Northwest Herald (which now cost money to read so a link seems a waste of time) that the county is planning on increasing its balance from five months’ expenditures to six months.
Can anyone do the math?
That’s going to increase the budget one-twelfth.
Next year the Tax Cap allows an increase of 3%.
Does anyone but I think that means McHenry County government will again tax to the max?
1/12 is bigger than 3%, right?
= = = = =
Some comments about county balances:
When I was County Treasurer from 1966-1970, the County Board was illegally (see next sentence) accumulating money to build the new courthouse.
Ten percent of the taxes were paid under protest and the county regularly lost in court. It took a while, but the refunds were court-ordered and paid every year.
But the County Board got 90% of the illegal levies and really didn’t care about the lost 10%.
Better to tax illegally than lose a referendum to finance a new courthouse. (Maybe someone older than I can tell us if a referendum had already been lost.)
I went to the Finance Committee meeting in the fall of 1967 with an estimate of how much would be in the bank at the end of November (the County budget year began on December 1st then, as it does now).
The former County Board Chairman Harley Mackeben, elected Auditor in 1964, barely beating my father, disagreed.
I think my calculations were that there would be $6 million in the bank.
The Committee put in a zero beginning balance–what Mackeben recommended.
My memory is that the beginning balance was even higher than I estimated–$6.7 million.
But the real question today is how much money is needed in reserve.
Income and sales taxes come in every month. (There was no income tax until 1969.) The main irregular income comes from property taxes.
I believe I came up with four months as what was needed.