04/21/08 — Money matters: Is reserve amount something commission should tap?

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Money matters: Is reserve amount something commission should tap?

You know, when you think about it, the Wayne County Republican Party has brought up an interesting point.

Why does Wayne County need three times the state requirement for reserves, especially in this time of economic difficulty?

And by the way, this is not the first time that question has been asked.

In the past, the answer has been related to the county’s ability to borrow money. And that might still be the response and the justification for such a bank roll.

But you do have to kind of wonder if the circumstances the county faces — and the continuing worries over the economy — might prompt somebody up at the courthouse to suggest that now might not be the best time to hit people with even more taxes, especially if there are funds available so that some of the work that needs to be done could be financed in-house.

Couldn’t we use some of the reserves now, when we need them, and do as well with twice the required reserves or even half-again as much? How do other counties manage? How big are their spreads?

In the past, the commissioners have criticized the Wayne County Board of Education for allegedly hoarding some funds in reserve accounts rather than using them for expenses associated with facilities.

That was wrong, they said, in light of the fact that the school district was asking the county for more money.

Does that sound a little familiar to anyone else?

Isn’t that exactly what the county is doing right now?

There might be very compelling reasons to keep our hands off the reserve funds right now. But before voters rubberstamp a sales tax hike May 6, someone needs to address the specifics and show proof that the right decision has been made to hold tight to that money.

And even if the reserve funds were tapped more heavily, voters might still want to consider a sales tax increase. It could very well provide some of the extra funds the county needs to take care of some of its school facilities concerns. It would be a good way to earmark a revenue stream that would be able to effect major progress in the schools — and it would be a burden shared by everyone who uses the schools rather than simply the county property owners.

A sales tax increase with a specific purpose, and one that is directed straight for a concern that is considered a priority for many Wayne County voters, might be a better idea.

Families are struggling to deal with $3.50 a gallon gas as well as elevated food prices and other expenses. This would be a way for someone to acknowledge that struggle, while still taking a leadership role in getting the job done. Earmark some of that reserve, but ask taxpayers to help out, too. That seems fair.

Published in Editorials on April 21, 2008 10:55 AM