October 26, 2014

County residents need to speak up

By Tim Barnum
Staff writer
Posted 12/30/08

When the county’s budget requires borrowing money from a dwindling tax administration fund, something is wrong, and the proverbial finger can be pointed in all directions — Commissioners for increasing wages to elected officials and non-union employees and not cutting enough spending from the budget, union employees for demanding and expecting raises and county voters for not supporting millages that would help generate some revenue for the county — depending on where you sit.

However, all of that amounts to nothing. As with the nation’s meltdown in the financial sector, playing the blame game doesn’t solve anything, but action does.

In 2009, it’s inevitable. As County Treasurer Dennis Stawowy put it, “The residents of the county have to decide and tell the board what services they can do without or come to the determination they want all the services we provide and pay for them.”

But isn’t that the reason people vote, to put somebody in power to represent them and make the tough decisions that will benefit the people they represent?

Yes. That’s true. But a county commissioner is also expected to listen to the people. Many people may not know this, but county commissioners occasionally attend township/city meetings in their respective districts. The people in these districts, if they have something to say, should also attend these meetings and make their feelings heard, or attend a Board of Commissioners meeting on any of the first four Tuesdays of the month (some months have more than four Tuesdays, take December 2008, for example).

It is understood that due to employment, which no one in his or her right mind would jeopardize in this economy to attend a local government meeting, you may not be able to easily be present at a township, city or county board meeting. If that’s the case, write a letter, make a phone call or send someone in your place. The level of activity in local government by voters needs to be higher if you truly want the county to prosper.

This especially will ring true in 2009. It seems apparent judging by the tone of this week’s article regarding the budget that some services will be cut or see a reduction in funding. Not everyone will be happy. Not everyone should be happy. But everyone should be able to understand that it’s nothing personal. The results of the 2008 elections showed the majority of people weren’t willing to float any more tax dollars to new millages, most likely not out of disdain for these services or organizations, but probably out of financial insecurity in their own homesteads.

So services, possibly even county departments, may have to be axed. It’s a bitter reality, and also a bitter responsibility. Board Chairman Raymond Daniels said that when you are cutting these departments’ hours or employees, you are also affecting somebody’s mother, daughter, brother, father, etc. It’s definitely not a pleasant thing, which is why residents of the county have to share the burden in deciding which departments and services to cut or roll back funding to.

No one likes to deliver bad news. And people will be hurt in 2009 due to the rough economy. But the bleeding can be minimal if everybody works together to decide efficiently and fairly where to spend county tax dollars.

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