Residents must keep county’s year-end balances in perspective

To The Editor:

This is in response to John Priore’s letter from Jan. 19, 2016.

I have heard the definition for crazy is doing the same thing time after time and expecting a different outcome.

In the last two recessions of 2001 and 2008, this county had little unrestricted fund balances or reserves. As a result, when the recessions hit, we stopped funding adequately road maintenance and bridge building in order to keep funding day-to-day county operations like courts, prosecutor, probation, sheriff, jail, clerk, assessor, auditor, treasurer, etc.

We would catch up on roads and bridges “later.”

“Later” never comes without planning.

In 2009, the county council determined to stop repeating that mistake and to build fund balances or reserves for the next “rainy day.”

We also determined to catch up on deferred road and bridge maintenance.

Through the efforts of many in county government and the leadership of the council, I am proud to say we are achieving our two objectives.

We are repairing neglected roads and bridges and building rainy day funds so that we are more prepared for the next recession than we were for the last two.

In my opinion, we are not yet over-funding roads and bridges and rainy day funds.

Year-end balances need to be viewed with some perspective. Property tax payments are due May 10 and Nov. 10 of each year. Those November collections are not all spent by Dec. 31st; they fund county government through the first four months of the new year.

Likewise, just as a reminder, state law provides specific allowable uses for the various revenue sources. Looking at a total of all fund balances can be misleading.

As for his comment about Hancock County’s competitiveness, our income tax rates are comparable with surrounding counties, and we have reduced the county’s portion of the overall tax rate for four straight years.

Hancock County is an attractive location for business.

Jim Shelby

Hancock County Council District 3