This year’s budget battle is finally over.
While I’m disappointed with the outcome, it is important we learn and apply the lessons from this year. What we in county government must do going forward is manage finances better to avoid such a scenario in the future.
I minored in history in college. The saying that history repeats itself is often true, especially if we ignore the lessons of history.
So what are some things we need to change?
The way the county’s budget is created needs to change.
Currently, the budget goes through the Finance Committee. There are only four commissioners on that committee.
We need to form a Budget Committee. The state’s advisory service, CTAS, recommends a Budget Committee and many counties have started using one.
The Budget Committee would be comprised of eight commissioners, one from each district. That would certainly be better representation for the taxpayers.
The county’s budget would then go through the Finance Committee and on to the full County Commission.
I know a Budget Committee failed to pass previously, but with this year’s process fresh in everyone’s mind, I am hopeful that it will.
Franklin County deserves better.
Another thing we need to change is how we plan for the future.
The middle school situation did not just come about recently. We knew something needed to be done with North and South to fix the mold and water intrusion problems for years.
The current middle school projects were proposed and eventually started when the problems became a full-blown crisis.
The ongoing jail expansion that has morphed into a complete renovation is another problem that should have been handled differently. We could have built a bigger facility in the first place or added on at the time of the Judicial Center’s construction.
The way the current construction has been handled is unconscionable. Perhaps the biggest insult to injury with the jail project is that we will have paid roughly twice as much as other counties in our area per bed space added for a facility that’s not big enough and will be almost full when it finally opens.
We must plan for and manage projects better than this in the future.
Franklin County deserves better.
I attended the recent Reagan Day dinner and heard Gov. Lee’s speech.
The biggest takeaway I had from the governor’s speech is he is operating on a 20-year vision.
The governor is a businessman. He made the point that in business you must plan for where you will be years down the road, not just focusing on the immediate future.
Obviously, Gov. Lee will not be in office 20 years from now as there are term limits in place, but it is refreshing to know he is operating with a long-range plan.
I highly doubt I will be on the County Commission in 20 years, and the same is probably true for most of my fellow commissioners.
However, I believe it would be beneficial for the commission to have a similar mindset.
One of the best things we have done on the Long Range Planning Committee is bringing in people from the outside to get a better feel for the challenges and opportunities Franklin County will have going forward.
For example, we have sought input from county departments as well as the Chamber of Commerce among others.
One area that exemplifies this is Solid Waste Director Anderson’s work on the incinerator project.
We currently have landfill space. That space is getting more expensive and harder to come by. In five years, we could be in crisis mode because the landfill we contract with will be full.
The solid waste disposal bill for July was higher than it has ever been. A solution needs to be found and implemented.
By getting ahead of the problem, we may actually be able to turn a potential crisis into an opportunity. I believe the mindset is shifting and quite honestly it needs to because Franklin County deserves better.
Greg King is the Franklin County District 4, Seat A commissioner and a Decherd police sergeant.