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DOCUMENTS


The Tentacle


January 29, 2009

Living Like The Rest of Us

Joan Marie Aquilino

I caught the Board of County Commissioners meeting that was held on Tuesday. Ron Hart, the county manager, was singing the commissioners’ praises for saving the county $12,000 to $15,000 by not filling their receptionist position.

 

What the county commissioners did by not filling the receptionist position is exactly what we all need to see more of and that is – leading by example. It might be a kick to see the commissioners lead, even further, by example and taking a shift themselves. I'm sure they've got plenty of email answering, budget, and Waste-to-Energy (WTE) bids to review, too. Lots of reading to fill an hour or so.

 

Leading by Example: The commissioners have certainly taken a step in that direction. I hope they continue that trend and follow their own example for all requests big and small.

 

Stop forward funding. Don't spend what we don't have. Live within our means and not on credit, or like the Gov. Martin O’Malley is now doing, on a promise. We wouldn't be in this shape had we followed those rules all along. We can't keep bailing out past mistakes.

 

Next time it's time to pave a parking lot just because it's in a rotation but it's not needed . . . skip it. When a community center needs a new heating system and the air conditioning is tacked on just because it made sense to someone else, but it wasn't asked for and isn't needed…skip it. The next time someone asks to put signs on county busses advertising programs, etc., in Spanish…how about we just skip it. All small amounts, but in the Big Picture they add up to Big Bucks.

 

Did I hear correctly, that the County Board of Zoning Appeals (BOA) offered to suspend their stipend to help with the budget crunch? I know no one really takes these jobs with the thought of getting rich, but they do earn it. Once again, leading by example. Who’s next? This is something worth catching. Thank you, and Bravo Board of Appeals!

 

I hope the Frederick County Board of Education will start looking at its budget in the same fashion. I've come to a begrudging realization it is a fund raisers for Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS). We the taxpayers do not hold the Board of Education to the same standards that we do the commissioners. Until we do, nothing will change.

 

Have new computers, text books, supplies or administrative staff been put on hold? They claim they don't throw things out there to scare people, like swimming, etc. But what is it other than a scare tactic. Saying it and proving it are two different things.

 

Make cuts no one will notice and then see what happens. Make cuts that hurt the administration and not the individual schools and students, and then see what happens. How much Duplication of Effort goes into the public school system once you get past the level of teacher?

 

Talk is to add a half a child to the classroom to save money. How about we cut the administration staff at every level and every office by equal amounts? I haven't seen any offers of salary cuts.

 

If it's a matter of keeping a job with a 5% salary and benefit cut, or a complete abolishment of the job, which do you think most would prefer?

 

What is the superintendent driving and why? Have all take-home vehicles for employees been stopped? If so, have the vehicles been sold?

 

Why did I see one parked outside of Michael's Craft Store at 5:30 in the evening? Does the county manager or any of the county commissioners have take home vehicles? Last I checked they did not.

 

The county is open 24/7; the school system is not. The Board of Education gets upset with the messenger. It should get upset with the message it is sending. This is the message we are all getting because of your actions. I'm not making up this stuff. Hopefully people will get upset enough to do and say something.

 

If this new palatial new headquarters building is going to happen no matter what, I've got an idea. Lease out the top floor for income and to help pay the bills instead of just spreading out and buying new furniture and hiring more staff to fill the building. The top floor will command more rent than the first floor. The possibilities are endless: suites for lawyers, accountants, even someone like the Chamber of Commerce. Get out of the comfort zone and think.

 

Talk to local swim teams, the Y's, etc., about taking over the pools. Make it a doable situation and don't put road blocks in the way and then say it didn't work. Anyone remember ABC for Education? Talk about beating your head against a wall when trying to help someone.

 

As to the other departments under the county's umbrella, those that make the deepest and most difficult cuts should be rewarded and moved to the front of the line when times are better. Right now if a department makes cuts and returns money to the county the odds are it goes into a fund balance and goes where? Who is the first with their hands in that cookie jar?

 

I would imagine that if I were a department head knowing that my efforts were just going to go across the street, why bother, just use it myself. But if I knew it was going into a rainy day fund, or that I could tap into it myself during better times, I might be more likely to make those tough cuts. The Board of Education wants to keep their fund balance. Why shouldn't every department want the same?

 

I know the county doesn't want to do to municipalities what the state is doing to them, but there may be no other choice because of state actions. If the county doesn't have it, or is forced to spend even more because of state mandates, then it's mighty hard to share what they don't have.

 

What happens if the assessments re-evaluation is a new mandate for the county to fund? I've never agreed with the state and federal governments dumping mandates on us without full funding, but they do it; and if we ignore or refuse them then they further bully the counties with threats to cut off other monies. It's a no win situation.

 

Governor O'Malley is banking on money he doesn't have and may not get, but not to worry, the feds will print more. It amazes many of us that the issues former Gov. Robert Ehrlich was criticized for are not only okay, but encouraged for Governor O'Malley. I don't care if you are Republican. Democrat, liberal, moderate, conservative or a purple people eater, if it's wrong, it's wrong for everyone and padding is wrong.

 

Stop making a budget but rather learn to live on a budget. The rest of us have. Every office, every department, and every level of the ever escalating levels of government need to Cut the fluff and live lean, NOW!

 

            …’til next time



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