Count me among the seemingly small minority who thinks the Hall County Board of Commissioners goofed big time in passing the budget.
I don't doubt their sincerity in their beliefs what they were doing was in the best interest of Hall County. I just disagree, as do a number of us, though in total I suspect our total number is south of a third of county taxpayers. That's OK. I've been a minority dissenter on numerous issues during this column's 52-plus years; right in the long run a number of times, wrong some of the times.
The so-called "savings" in the long run is going to be costly, not savings. Example: The Community Service Center, jointly operated by city and county. It'll lose some federal funding, needlessly costing city taxpayers (who also are county taxpayers). The Meals on Wheels is a vital service, the deliveries manned mostly by dedicated volunteers who donate time, effort and gas expense. It's easy to criticize it when one hasn't been there, done that and seen the results.
I don't know the detailed numbers for the "Red Rabbit" since I haven't crunched them but strongly suspect a less expensive alternative is possible, perhaps even improving service. How's this? Contract with private taxi companies to pick up and deliver the patrons. They could have set pick-up times for picking up and returning. A small fee could reduce the overall cost even more.
Nothing's particularly wrong with privatizing Parks and Leisure Services, at least partially. Letting experienced professionals such as YMCA and the Boys and Girls Clubs could reduce the expenses substantially. That's probably a good thing the commissioners did.
I questioned the purchase of the Liberty Mutual building at the time. I'm just hoping when it's sold it won't go in some "sweetheart deal" for less than it's worth. To me, that alone is millions the commission wasted.
They're right moving some operations to vacant county buildings. It won't be as efficient, but it can be a make do. Less space will be needed with all the firings.
Much of what we're losing could have been avoided with a modest tax property increase. As the old saying goes, I don't like paying taxes any more than anyone else. But in being pragmatic, understand sometimes an increase is necessary and less expensive in the long run. I think this was one of those sometimes. Realistically, it's politically hard to vote an increase when an obvious large majority is opposed.
Making this all the more bitter to swallow was the commission majority firing several key top managers such as county manager, attorney and finance director without the simple professional courtesy of expressing any dissatisfaction they had with them and doing it even before two of them hadn't even taken office. The replacements seem highly qualified, but their compensation was ultra-expensive. On top of that was the very expensive severance costs of those fired. These costs would have reduced the cuts substantially.
I still hear talk of recall election as soon as it's legal to start circulating petitions. I still basically oppose recalls except in rare events. The time to take officials to the woodshed is election day.
Ted Oglesby is retired associate and opinion editor of The Times. His column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com. You can reach him at P.O. Box 663, Gainesville, GA 30503.