Compromise is ‘essential’
It seems that time has run out for Cumberland County. We have, over the years, held the line on tax increases and cut a lot of waste out of the budget, and a lot that was not necessarily waste. Now, as the saying goes, “the chickens have come home to roost”.
For the past years, cutting expenses has meant kicking capital improvement projects down the road until some future time, perhaps, hoping that those needs will dry up and go away. For essential needs, those related to schools, or law enforcement, or emergency services, we were all ready and willing to dip into the county’s reserves.
Now we find that those reserves have dwindled to a dangerously low level. We are going to have to bite the bullet and raise taxes or reduce funding for some of the “sacred cows” that have been untouchable in past years, such as law enforcement and the schools.
I have been saying for several years now that we have reached the point where we are going to have to either increase taxes or cut expenditures for our “sacred cows“ (law enforcement and schools). Raising taxes has been anathema to some; cutting the “sacred cows” has been anathema to others.
Depending on whose figures you choose to listen to, we are faced with a budget shortfall of approximately $300,000 to $600,000 or as much as $750,000. These figures cover different situations. The first is from just the budgetary needs through next year. The second involves some much-needed capital improvement projects. The third figure comes from adding in an essential emergency services need that is expected to occur.
The board of supervisors can overcome these problems with the support of the citizens and a willingness to compromise. To overcome the problem, we are going to have to increase taxes and reduce expenditures for the “sacred cows.”
We are going to have to put everything on the table to find an equivalent of an 8-10 cent real estate tax increase.
We can cut the schools to accomplish part of this. With increased funding from the state, they will still have more than for this year. We can also make up a portion of it by taking away the land use tax break for either agriculture ($200,000) or forestry ($400,000), or both ($600,000). We can also make up some through a real estate tax increase of 4 cents ($300,000), 6 cents ($450,000), or 8 cents ($600,000), gathering $75,000 for every penny of rate increase.
Compromise is essential. We have to forget all the special interests and look at the needs of the county.
David E. Meinhard represents District Four on the Cumberland County Board of Supervisors. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.