GUEST COMMENTARY: Pandering to workers doesn't help taxpayers

2014-03-16T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Pandering to workers doesn't help taxpayersBy Bob Wichlinski nwitimes.com
March 16, 2014 12:00 am  • 

I was surprised by Porter County Commissioner John Evans’ assertion that running Porter County Government efficiently is somehow unfair — or worse, inconsiderate of our county employees.

Evans seems to be caught in an inexplicable contradiction. While our Porter County Council clearly realizes Porter County’s immediate need for fiscal discipline, Evans does not seem to share their sense of urgency.

The auditor’s office, in cooperation with our county assessor, treasurer, recorder and clerk, has responded by reducing waste and increasing efficiency without compromising service.

In the case of the auditor’s office, we recently reduced our staff by 25 percent without materially affecting service.

I did not come to the conclusion to restructure our office hastily. After three years serving as auditor, I restructured our office to address the immediate need for fiscal discipline and increased efficiency. Our county assessor and county clerk made a similar decision earlier that has translated into significant savings.

Politicians often offer “theater” regarding government efficiency, but seldom take action. I fear my decision to act may have startled Evans. Instead of celebrating my action, he decided to pander to county employees, in effect appointing himself their bargaining representative. Porter County simply cannot afford the present system, and each day we delay action our situation only worsens.

Evans is a nice person and has served Porter County for decades; however, I’m concerned he has lost touch with the economic reality facing our taxpaying citizens.

How can we afford to offer an employee with one year of service 10 days vacation, nine sick days, three personal days, 14 paid holidays, with weekends off and a 32.5-hour work week — in addition to paid life insurance and generous health insurance and retirement benefits?

Vacation days grow to 25 days after 20+ years of service.

What government can thrive, and survive, when that government is forced to operate without the presence of its valued, experienced employees for 12 weeks a year?

The solution has been to employ additional employees to serve in their absence. That only increases the cost of government.

The current fiscal trajectory for Porter County should be of paramount concern to the elected officials and county employees alike. We need leaders to take action. Pandering and frightening our county employees is not becoming of someone entrusted to serve in public office.

Bob Wichlinski is Porter County auditor. The opinions are the writer's.

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