Bad budgeting by Franklin County

To the editor:

Well, Franklin County property taxpayers, it seems that our county legislature is increasing our taxes by 5 percent for 2014, well over the state’s recommended 2 percent tax cap. Ironically, if the county had held its increase to the 2 percent tax cap, our tax increase would have been zero, because it now seems that the state will reimburse homeowners for up to a 2 percent increase, but if the increase is more than 2 percent, they will not give us anything. Because Franklin County is increasing us 5 percent, we will get nothing back from the state. Kind of a double whammy, right? Thanks, legislators, and a happy new year to you, too.

Worse, county Manager Thomas Leitz was quoted in the Dec. 26 Enterprise as saying the legislature was driven to the 5 percent increase by a recent state audit of county finances, which found, among other things, that the county has seriously depleted its fund balances. Here is the actual state audit recommendation:

“Develop and adopt a fund balance policy that establishes a reasonable amount of unexpended surplus funds to be maintained in order to meet the County’s needs, provide sufficient cash flow, and avoid reliance on short-term borrowing.”

In the Enterprise report, Mr. Leitz makes a direct connection between the 5 percent tax increase and what he calls “the recommendations of the state comptroller.” I don’t see any language in the above recommendation that says the county should increase its property tax by 5 percent in order to fix its fund balance problem; do you?

So, in addition to being on the receiving end of a 5 percent tax increase instead of no increase, we are being treated to this clumsy attempt at finger-pointing by our county manager (appointed by the county legislature), who by now should have figured out that there are other ways of rebuilding fund balances. (Hint: Reduce expenses.)

John Quenell

Paul Smiths