Letter: Bloated 2012 county budget

Dear Editor:

Included in the St. Johns County “2011 Notice of Proposed Property Taxes” was a letter with the following statements: “The 2012 budget is expected to be $188 million lower than 2007, a 25% reduction”, and, “St. Johns County is doing more with less.”

Property tax revenues are below 2006 levels while population increased 53% in the last census.” Based on these and other written statements that have come from our County Commissioners, they are drawing a direct correlation between the county’s population and the cost of county government.

Their premise is as the county’s population increases, so should the cost of county government. I don’t agree with this assumption.

Mitch Daniels, as governor of Indiana has proven you can shrink the size of government (they now have the same number of state employees as they did in 1976) and be tremendously more efficient in the process even with population growth. Government entities should be no different than private companies that have implemented productivity gains and thereby have become more efficient (really doing more with less).

By comparing this year’s total proposed budget to the total budget for 2007 provides a distorted reference to base any claims on “doing more with less”. There was a huge spending spree that began in 2003 ($333 million) which culminated in a massively bloated 2007 ($746 million) county budget.

If the administration and commissioners want to gloat on how well they are doing with our tax dollars, they should compare the 2011 total county budget to 2002 ($248 million) before this huge spending spree started. Using 2002 as a base, accounting for population growth and inflation through 2011, the total county budget should be no more than $432 million. This year’s proposed budget is $545 million…well over $100 million more than it should be! Applying the same process to each of the county’s funds will yield similar results except for the “Capital Improvement” fund.

Government costs don’t need to increase based on population growth, but if the county commissioners want to make that comparison, they have a long way to go before they can start gloating.

The 2012 budget is tremendously bloated. The county continues to have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Instead of increasing our millage (or any other) rates, they should be decreasing our millage rates and substantially reducing the cost of our county government.

Brian J. Letts
St. Augustine, FL

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News contributed photograph

Brian Letts is a management professional with over 22 years of IT experience and a distinguished background in quality assurance, business analysis and project management in the airline, transportation, logistics and most recently the education industries. He and his wife, Jodi, reside in St. Johns County.

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