EDITORIAL: Paying consultants to fill budget shortfalls perpetuates county's wasteful ways

2012-08-03T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Paying consultants to fill budget shortfalls perpetuates county's wasteful ways nwitimes.com
August 03, 2012 12:00 am

Lake County commissioners would have us believe they are "working" on a solution to a potential $15 million budget shortfall in county government's 2012 and 2013 budgets. But they're really not working on anything at all. In typical wasteful form, they're paying someone else to work on the issue.

Lake County just hired yet another consultant to do the thinking for the officials who already were elected by voters to do that thinking. This time, they’re poised to pay a financial consultant to tell them how to fill the budget shortfall. Aside from the odd notion of paying someone to save money, county leadership is again shunning logic when it comes to county finances in favor of continuing their wasteful ways.

If this sounds familiar to anyone, it should. Lake County officials regularly spend millions upon millions of dollars on consultants — some with strong political ties — in many cases when logical alternatives are available for no charge.

This stop-gap approach of hiring others to develop temporary fixes to dwindling local government budgets permeates the entire county, and it needs to stop. Lake County remains the only hold-out county in the state on the issue of adopting a local option income tax — a move that could help fill such budget shortfalls.

Council members and commissioners need to put aside the politically charged rhetoric once and for all and face the music. The only way to budget reform is to stop spending money on consultants and deal with the tough issues themselves. And a logical way to fill the budget gap is the enactment of the income tax.

Commissioners and Lake County Council members no doubt fear the politically unpopular ramifications of adopting such a tax. Perhaps when they were elected, they thought they would always be able to skate by along the easy route to forming responsible public policy. That's just not the case.

Or perhaps some fear the rest of their records as public officials won't hold up to any unpopular policy decisions. Perhaps it's time for city and town leaders to band together. If the city/town councils of municipalities representing more than 50 percent of the county's population vote in favor of a local income tax, county officials stalled in their own rut of inaction and wastefulness can be skirted on the issue.

Until then, here we go again, hiring another consultant, mirroring a pattern of behaviors that no doubt will lead the county back to the same dead-end we have seen so many times. The county's voters should be exhausted by this pattern.

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