April 20, 2006

County Budget Waste - Even on the Paper It's Printed

Someone recently gave me a copy of the publication Union County Government 2006 Executive Budget. Long an advocate of smaller government and fiscal responsibility, I immediately knew right off the bat that I wouldn’t have to look too far to find one place to save a few taxpayer bucks.

The Annual Report for AT&T is Only 63 Pages!!

Weighing in at almost three pounds, 219 pages in length and bound with a plastic fastener, the tome is a detailed guide of how our county government is structured, the services provided, a rundown of the accomplishments each department has managed to pull off this past year and how they intended to spend the taxpayer’s money this coming year.

Wedding Invitations

As I paged through it I couldn’t help but be impressed by the quality of the stock that was used. Expensive wedding invitations came to mind. As I reviewed it I realized that there was so much blank space on the pages, some contained only one or two words, that a talented calligrapher or engraver could probably pump out a couple of dozen invites from the clean areas not having to be to careful because the backs of the pages were blank as well.

Very Large Print

Another interesting aspect is that I could actually read this thing without my eyeglasses - and truth be told, at my stage of the game, I now need my specs to read anything smaller than a 16-pt font. Just think of the large print Readers Digest in the local eye man’s office and you will get the idea.

Now, I do believe that there are requirements that the county government has to fulfill, regarding the content, when releasing the proposed budget to the public. I seriously doubt that those requirements include specifications about the weight of the paper, the font size and that the department reports must be separated by sheets of actual cardboard.

Doing Things in a Big Way

It occurred to me that this publication is indicative of how our Union County Freeholders waste money. After all, why use a report folder with built-in Acco fastener from Staples when a printing job can be awarded to a favored, connected, commercial printer possibly from outside Union County?

No Cost???

The other alternative is that the County produced this publication by what they call “in-house” means, doing it at what they say is at “no cost.” But is it really at no cost? After all, the stock and ink aren’t free nor is the electricity to run the duplicating equipment - not to mention the cost of the man hours which see this project through from cradle to grave.

Disappointing if one expected some cut backs.....

Anyway you look at it, the county budget is loaded with waste, spending has not been curtailed one bit, salaries plus overtime account for 39 percent of the budget (the same as last year), parks and facilities management increased 100.5 percent and debt service is up 3 percent over 2005 - yet they keep borrowing. Go figure.

The real story is in the anticipated revenues with grant monies down $14.5 million from last year and the surplus dwindling. They had to get the money from some place so they hit the taxpayers for an additional $12 million this year. They are also counting on increased income from investments from $900,000 in 2005 to $2 million in 2006. Wish I had that crystal ball.

Seven Pages

By the way, the Executive Budget actually contains seven pages of financial information, notably the proposed budget from County Manager George Devanney.