How Do Your County Services Rate?
It is an exciting time to join the Board of County Commissioners. While difficult economic times are never pleasant, the decisions we now face have become increasingly important. With declining tax revenues, the demand for tax relief and the ever present need for high quality County services, we must make important decisions which will shape the future of our community.
Our County Commission is in the process of crafting our 2010 budget which will need to compensate for declining revenues while holding the line on taxes. Our goal is to resize our government to deliver a sustainable basket of quality services in a consistent, predictable and reliable manner. To do so, we must reduce our expenditures by as much as 20% or $85 million dollars and we must begin to plan proactively for our budgets in terms of multiyear cycles rather than reacting to revenue shortfalls year to year.
As a new County Commissioner, I have jumped into this budget process at a very critical time. To make the best possible decisions, I will evaluate budget and other proposals to determine how they R.A.T.E. First, is the proposal within the proper Role of government; specifically is it within the role of County level government? Both our County charter and our State statutes stand as authoritative documents defining the responsibilities of our County government. Secondly, does the proposal include appropriate Accountability measures? Clearly defined standards and metrics set proactively can help ensure that the expenditures are used as they are intended and that the expenditures achieve the intended results. Further, does the proposal properly Target both the tax and the spend side of the measure? Aligning the source of the tax (such as consumer vs. property owner vs. tourist or countywide vs. unincorporated) and the type of tax (such as sales tax vs. property tax vs. user fee) with the intended benefit and beneficiaries of the expenditure will increase the equitableness of the proposal. Finally, will the proposal use our taxpayers’ dollars in the most Effective and efficient manner possible? Doing so will ensure that we get “the most bang for the buck.”
Along with this careful evaluation, it is critical to get broad based input from citizens throughout our community so that we can create a budget for our community that reflects the values of our community. It is important to hear from you about your priorities for this budget and beyond. Our formal budget adoption hearings will take place in September, but I encourage you to get involved long before then. Please go to our website at www.pinellascounty.org and visit The Citizens’ Guide to the Budget where you can learn more about our budget process and leave us your input. You can also reach me and all of your Commissioners by phone: (727) 464-3377, or by mail: Board of County Commission, 315 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756.
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