The Lewis County Board of Legislators seems intent on passing a budget that includes a property tax hike when people can least afford it. Never mind that the property tax is the most regressive and unfair tax of all. What is most galling is that the Legislators are crowing about not taking as much money out of the Fund Balance as last year. If they would, taxpayers would see a much needed tax decrease.
Why should more money be applied to the budget from the Fund Balance to reduce taxes? Because it's our money and they've (the County) have got lots of it. The County has 11.8 million dollars in its Fund Balance and Lewis County General Hospital has another 2.8 million dollars for a total of a 14.6 million dollar Fund Balance. The hospital's Fund Balance is the County's, just as when the hospital lost money, the loss was made up out of the County's Fund Balance. Further, the hospital has several million dollars in investments from previous positive Fund Balances.
At a minimum, the County should apply the same amount of dollars to this budget as they did last year. The County's Fund Balance has grown substantially since last year and County government can not plead poverty to its hard pressed taxpayers.
Lewis County Legislative Board Chairman Jack Bush has been hiding behind County ownership of the hospital as a reason for maintaining a bloated Fund Balance. That dog doesn't hunt. Bush points to the 1990's when the hospital was losing money as his example. Let's look at the facts.
In the mid-1990's while the County carried an approximate 30 million dollar budget, the hospital
was losing money and the County's Fund Balance was approximately 4.5 million dollars. Now the County budget is at about 42 million dollars, the hospital has made money for the last ten years and the County's Fund balance is at 14.6 million dollars.
Put another way, during a time while the County's budget has increased about 50% and during a time while the hospital has been making money, the County's Fund Balance has tripled. That's our money their hoarding, folks.
As an aside, it is germain to point out that Chairman Bush was a strong supporter of the hospital mangement that managed to lose all that money in the 90's.
I've heard it said that the Board of Legislators is saving that Fund Balance for a rainy day. It's not their money to hang onto. It belongs to us, the taxpayers, that have enough rainy days of our own to contend with. Spend down the Fund Balance . Reduce property taxes.
Let us spend our money on our own rainy days.
Besides, this group has proven itself too self serving to be allowed its own public slush fund. What's next? Buying a railroad track for ATVs?