A better way than raising taxes for Kent County 5 May, 2009Posted by David Anderson in Uncategorized.
“During the 2010 Kent County Levy Court budget hearings, I identified systemic economic flaws in how our government operates. I stated that if Kent County was a business, it could not ignore these flaws because they would directly impact our long term bottom line. To demonstrate the seriousness of my concerns, I asked the finance director to give me a pay cut for 2009 and 2010. Simply put, if our government was a business and I was the CEO, I could not expect to make the same salary this year as I did last year.
Over the past two years Levy Court has cut spending by 8 million dollars. We have done this by delaying capital projects, implementing an ERO, lowering utility/travel expenses, and utilizing other forward thinking ideas. A substantial amount of our “Rainy Day” account also contributed to making ends meet. These cuts were not easy, and I do not want to make light of them, but unfortunately, these solutions are temporary and eventually will be eliminated. That is why I am pushing to implement revolving savings that streamline government expenses and save money annually.
Currently, the county does not require contributions towards retirement and health care. The reason for the lack of contribution is simple. In years past, Kent County did not pay their employees as well as other governments paid theirs. To make up for this shortfall, Levy Court decided to provide a lucrative benefit package for said employees. This practice made sense when the county workers were underpaid. Several pay studies over the past ten years have erased the disparity in pay between city, state, and county employees. This change in salaries has been well deserved by county workers. The problem is that the increase in salaries combined with our benefits package over the past ten years have contributed to county personnel making up 75% of general fund expenses.
In 2010 the county will pay 2.1 million dollars to maintain a fully funded pension. That is up from 1.2 million in 2009 and up from 550,000 in 2004. Over the past ten years the county has seen health care costs rise by an average of 10% annually. The bottom line is that the county does not bring in enough money to afford these expenses. That is why I have introduced several ordinances that will require new employees to contribute towards health care and pension costs. Adopting these ordinances will lower the burden that is required by tax payers throughout the county and reduce the need for a tax increase in the future.
None of the ideas I am presenting are new. Other local governments have already implemented these changes to address rising costs. I realize that these changes will face opposition and that not all the commissioners will support them. I only ask that those in opposition to these changes look at the numbers and explain to me how we can afford not to change. ”
Levy Court Commissioner