After having his idea to transfer $37 million of the $41 million in the Valley Hi Fund surplus to the County’s General Fund for the purpose of cutting one year’s county government’s taxes in half (the tax take next year will be $74 million) shot down, County Board member and Board Chairman candidate Mike Wallkup went to the Valley Hi Operating Board meeting last night
This is his report:
WALKUP WAKES UP VALLEY HI BOARD
I arrived at the Valley Hi Operating Board meeting and greeted familiar faces as I had been a member of that Board for two years before being taken off by County Board Chairman [Joe] Gottemoller last year.
During the time I was on the Operating Board, most meetings were somnolent affairs dominated by two hour monologues by the very competent Director, Tom Annarella, with few questions being asked by Board members other than corrections of typographic errors in the minutes of previous meetings.
The only change in the membership now was that former Democrat County Board Member James Kennedy is now Chairman of the Operating Board, replacing attorney Peter Michling. Kennedy had been an Operating Board member during my tenure there as one of two County Board liason members, and was the typographical error watchdog mentioned above.
I spoke up during the ‘public comment’ portion at some length about the numerous concerns that had been expressed to me by county taxpayers over the past year about the size of the Valley Hi surplus, which now stands at nearly 4 times the total annual operating budget and for which the county is being sued on behalf of about 1500 county property owners.
As a result of my initiative last year, the County Board has suspended any additional levy for this year [cutting taxes by $3 million].
However, the surplus remains.
Following my remarks, other members, including the two current County Board liaison members, Jim Heisler and Chuck Wheeler, as well as two of the regular Operating Board members who have health care backgrounds, made a number of positive, constructive and very civil comments.
These included the possibility that a portion of the Valley Hi surplus, which the State’s Attorney has indicated may not be able to be immediately refunded to the voters by transfer to the county’s general fund, be used instead as a loan to the county for the construction of certain capital projects around the government complex.
These include repairs to the leaking court house roof and resurfacing of the surrounding parking lots. In this way, the interest charged may be effectively paid back to the county, rather than wasted on outside bond holders. An interesting idea which will be explored further.
Following that, however, Operating Board Chair [Jim] Kennedy stood up (the rest of us had all remained seated during our discussions which take place around a large conference table) and proceeded to deliver a loud oration criticizing my motivations, and stating that the money in the surplus account “belonged” to Valley Hi as it was the result of the 2002 voter referendum, and that it could be spent down very quickly on the various capital projects for that facility, rather than being diverted elsewhere.
Obviously, I hit a raw nerve.