Tuesday, August 28, 2007

All Things Fiscal

The purpose of this post is not to comment on the specifics contained within current local, state, or federal budgets, but rather to posit that the budgeting process is seriously out of whack. By that, I mean that expenditures always rise to meet increased revenues (or continue apace in the face of decreased revenues), regardless of the utility of new and/or increased spending.

For my part, I have made these same arguments, in person or in print, to the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County and to the Clarke County School District for some years now:

1. You will never tax your way to prosperity

2. You do not have a revenue problem, you have a spending problem; until and unless you bring spending under control, you will never have enough revenue

My appeals have fallen on deaf ears, however, as spending and budgets for either of the local bureaucracies are at record levels.

The FY08 budget for the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County is a staggering $213 million. This represents a whopping 36.15% increase over FY07. Even excluding the massive capital budget increase, the Unified Government plans to spend more than a million dollars per month more than just a year ago. Yet we are told that this is a “lean” budget - the groundwork for a millage rate increase next year having already been laid. And the folks who live in the formerly unincorporated areas of the county will continue to get squat in the way of basic governmental services such as water and sewer lines.

No to be outdone, the Clarke County School District’s budget for 2007-08 tops $117.5 million, plus another $11.8 million in reserve and contingency funds. And for that we get a 40% drop-out rate, 40% of the county’s schools failing to meet AYP standards, and test scores that fall below the state average year after year (after year after year after year . . .).

Though it pains me to say so, the folks under the Gold Dome do not appear to be doing much better. The FY08 budget for the State of Georgia is pegged at an astounding $20.23 billion. This pains me because, while Clarke County is under the heel of a self-consciously “progressive” lot ,from whom I expect profligate spending, the state government is dominated by the GOP, from whom I expect more fiscal responsibility.

And don’t even get me started on the $2.9 trillion FY08 budget at the federal level (truly a Saganesque number).

Regardless of which level of government is involved and how much money is thrown at any given “crisis,” the song always remains the same, preferably involving some appeal to help “the children:” if only we had more money. And yet, the innumerable crises that increased spending is supposed to alleviate never seem to get solved do they? Instead, they are merely superseded by another set of more and bigger crises that require even more spending. And so it goes year after year.

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: