From the general sound of public dialogue, it might sometimes seem that government budgets rank as one of the hottest topics.
If that were the case, however, it would be hard to explain how Columbia County commissioners could hold a public hearing to present next year’s budget, and no one from the public attends.
As in: No one. Just a few government employees and members of the media were there Tuesday when county Finance Director Leanne Reece provided an overview of next year’s plan for providing government services in the fast-growing county.
County Administrator Scott Johnson suggests the empty room was an expression of confidence in the local officials’ leadership, and he’s got a good point.
For all the griping, ours occasionally included, the idea that Columbia County runs anything other than a tight fiscal ship just doesn’t hold water. It’s especially hard to make that case when commissioners are planning, again, to cut the county’s tax rate.
If anything, the biggest worry is that the county has built up such a large surplus fund. Rather than provide for emergencies, it instead exists so the county can borrow money at lower interest rates. Wouldn’t it be better to pay down the debt, or give more of the money back to taxpayers?
It’s also time for commissioners to market and sell their part of Marshall Square. The county bought the property to settle a lawsuit with the developers, and the stated plan was to wait until the economy improved and recoup the investment. Its usefulness as parking for Evans Towne Center Park shouldn’t delay that process, and construction on other parts of the property suggest the project is ready to sell – and for returning it to the tax rolls.
Still, in the great scheme of things, such issues are minor. Perhaps that’s why the public doesn’t feel the need to sit through a budget meeting to hear about the details.