Brown: Bad county financial planning has been ongoing for at least 5 years


I have to honestly say I believe the article “Fayette County Commission OK’s $80.8 million budget on 4-1 vote” was a bit underreported.

First, look at the obvious. The county government’s general fund budget is actually increasing, contrary to [one commissioner’s] comments on reducing spending, even though we are in the midst of a period of declining revenue and rapidly falling property values.

The remedy for budgeting in an extremely weak economy is not increasing expenses, exactly what a majority of my colleagues on the Board of Commissioners have done.

Another important point is the budget has been unsustainable, expenditures exceeding revenue, for many years going back to the administration previous to our current one. The expedient resolution has always been to balance the budget with reserve funds, never tackling the core problem of the budget being unsound.

[Another commissioner] said we are “managing” the spending of reserves. We are being managed into a financial hole that will be quite painful to get out of in the future.

Keep in mind that most of our cash reserves derived from raiding other accounts, not funding vital accounts (like purchasing vehicles and heavy equipment) and one-time savings opportunities. Clearly, when vehicles and heavy equipment are not funded year-after-year, we can expect to feel the pain in later years (some call it “kicking the can down the road”). The premise that our reserves occurred from excess revenue is false.

[That commissioner] agreed with my assessment that our future unfunded maintenance and heavy equipment costs are daunting.

The Fire Fund was allowed to collapse. Going back five years, the Fire Fund has not been capable of paying for administrative, heavy equipment and other costs to fund the operations and maintenance of our county fire service. There is no excuse for such a lapse in judgment.

The early retirement investment plan is a scam. The reporter said I voted in favor of the plan which is true. However, he neglected to say that once we received information that revealed the plan had been ill-conceived, I immediately requested a third-party review of the plan and was voted down and the plan was allow to continue.

The county administrator did not provide the board with adequate data and he personally opted for the early retirement plan after it was approved. He never disclosed his interest in the plan while he was creating his own retirement pension. To note, the county administrator position within the early retirement plan is the biggest loser to the taxpayers.

The savings from such early retirement plans comes from eliminating the positions. The plan calls for only 12 of the 32 positions to be “not filled.” I did not say “eliminated” because the county administrator acknowledged in official documents that the unfilled positions would be left in line items within the budget and could be filled in later years, essentially quashing the savings.

We have one county staffer who will be performing the job duties of nearly three people because of the early retirement package and we will have to see how long that lasts.

The county had the flexibility to offer the early retirement package only to the employees where the county government and its taxpayers would have received significant financial savings. That particular action would have been the wise thing to do, especially in our current financial situation.

A majority of the Board of Commissioners also voted against using HB 240 to declare the West Fayetteville Bypass as impractical, it’s a bona fide waste, and use those tens of millions of dollars to offset budget shortfalls. Look up the article “No to the ‘biggest tax break in Fayette history,’” June 28, 2011, to see how the taxpayers lost.

The ultimate budgetary slap across the taxpayers’ faces is the paving of Snead Road. This road has the same dubious distinction at the West Fayetteville Bypass: a special interest developer road.

Snead Road is a dead-end gravel road with only two houses on it. However, two real estate interests only a substantial portion on the land attached to the road. To say this road merits any type of expenditure other than routine maintenance, enough to allow the two homeowners passage, is completely ridiculous and an affront to the taxpayers of our county.

All the Fayette taxpayer need do is look to future budget years, keeping the budget as is and examine the looming future capital improvement program numbers along with revenue projections. It becomes quite obvious that our funds will disappear before the obligations are met.

Steve Brown

Commissioner, Post 4

Peachtree City, Ga.