MARC CHASE: Cue the eye-roll for Lake County spending habits

2013-08-06T00:00:00Z MARC CHASE: Cue the eye-roll for Lake County spending habitsBy Marc Chase marc.chase@nwi.com, (219) 662-5330 nwitimes.com
August 06, 2013 12:00 am  • 

It's not apparent through newsprint, but I have a sort of social shortcoming — vice, if you will — when folks say or do things I find outrageous or with which I vehemently disagree.

I tend to roll my eyes — almost involuntarily, it has become so second nature (and my wife hates it).

It's happening a lot lately, particularly when I look at Lake County finances, the looming cost of a state-mandated emergency dispatch consolidation and the prospects of our county borrowing millions of dollars more while using taxpayers as collateral. My near-sighted peepers really turn backward when all these things are considered in the context of the local option income tax recently foisted on Lake County residents.

It has been happening so much lately that I literally develop headaches requiring about three Advil per day to quell the eye-roll fallout.

The latest ocular inversion occurred when Lake County Finance Director Dante Rondelli related the county may be forced to borrow more money if municipalities don't cough up a share of the funding for the E-911 consolidation.

The municipalities will have this money to contribute, with local government collectively set to rake in $45.3 million in January, courtesy of the new local option income tax. But will they send their money to E-911 — or will it disappear down other patronage holes?

This eye roll is not directed at Rondelli himself, just the notion of more borrowing when the County Council and commissioners just opted to siphon 1.5 percent in taxes off our wages to bolster county coffers.

Where does it stop?

Thanks to this new tax on our wages, the county government alone is set to rake in an initial bloodletting — er, revenue boost — of $15.3 million this coming January.

But — cue the eye roll — that money is likely already overspent. The county has the necessary expenses of funding $5 million in federally mandated jail improvements and $3 million for maintenance of bridges and flood control. But there's also a move afoot for another $7 million to "shore up" employee pension and health care benefits.

And we're hearing from some county officials about a push for an increase in county employee wages and benefits.

At this point, the eyes aren't rolling anymore. They're crossed.

And while Rondelli braces for the clamoring hands of county department heads looking to keep their fiefdoms fat, the rest of us get to watch our taxable wages evaporate and the county, no doubt, begin to consider more borrowing.

Or, the county and local government could do the right thing. Municipalities could pay their fair share of E-911 from their newly acquired income tax revenues.

And the county could nix wasteful notions of county employee pay raises.

After all, most taxpayers probably haven't seen such pay or benefit increases since the 2008 financial crisis. And, when last I checked, we were supposed to be experiencing a representative government.

Investigative Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 662-5330 or marc.chase@nwi.com. The opinions are the writer's.

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