Oh lord! By the way the local press has been shrieking and howling about it, you’d a thunk the Chairman just tried to beat Justin Bieber’s brains in at a Spanish night club. While that’s certainly something we’d all like to see, I can’t get nearly as excited about a $2 million Kane County budget deficit.
Yes! These kinds of things should be covered, but, if instead of applying the appropriate perspective, you choose to take a consistent sky is falling slant, you start looking kind of silly. So here’s the truth:
1. It’s only a 2.4 percent deficit
So we’re not exactly talking Detroit or Camden, New Jersey here. If the State income tax was a mere 2.4 percent, you’d hug the fricken’ governor despite the fact he’s a Democrat. If someone asked you for 2.4 percent of your 10 grand in lottery winnings, that comes out to just $240. If the value of your $300,000 house plummeted by a whopping 2.4 percent, it would still be worth $292,500.
So lets not get too crazy here.
Would a 2.4 percent surplus be better? Of course it would! But this minor budgetary blip is hardly the stuff of fiscal nightmares.
2. Finance Director Joe Onzick is very conservative
When it comes to making financial projections, that is. So while we’re certainly in the FY 2015 budgetary home stretch, by the time all the revenue numbers are finally crunched at this time next year, Kane County will have done better than expected.
We probably won’t be in the black without some other adjustments, but we won’t be $2 million in the hole either.
It should also be noted that Joe is very adept at putting off payments into accounts that are already very well funded. It’s a form of bringing balance to the financial force.
3. Every County office and department could cut 2.4 percent today
Let’s say I’m wrong about the revenue and Joe can’t pull off his money magic. With the possible exception of the Sheriff, who’s bigger budget makes it difficult to hide a similar percentage of slush money, at least 5 percent of each elected official’s bottom line consists of “hidden” discretionary funds.
Don’t worry – it’s nothing nefarious. It’s simply a smart hedge against line item overages, unexpected expenses, and the County Chairman calling for an across the board 2.4 percent budget cut.
The County departments probably don’t have quite as much floating cash, but they do have some and if it came down to it, they could easily dispense with 2.4 percent simply by putting off some expenses until next year.
Thus, in an absolute worst case scenario, everyone could easily make the appropriate cuts and then we’re right back in the black. Meanwhile, the economy and revenues will continue to improve.
4. Always under-promise and over-deliver
In other words, if you’re looking at a potential $1 million shortfall, you don’t go out and tell the press that! What if it gets worse?
No! If you’re smart, you tell reporters we’re actually looking at $2 million in red ink because then you look like a genius when it turns out to be not nearly that bad.
This phenomenon also works in reverse. Any astute politician knows that if their office requires a 5 percent budget increase, you have to ask for 10. Then you look like a hero when you cut your request in half.
The fact that the press falls for this ploy every time simply baffles me.
5. The Real Story – Part I
Again, any County deficit is most certainly newsworthy, but isn’t Circuit Clerk Tom Hartwell coming in $1,100,000, or 14 percent under budget, equally worthy of coverage? C’mon! Without his unique brand of budgetary acumen, the deficit could be fifty percent larger.
So why am I the only one that’s covered this great story?
6. The Real Story – Part II
Chairman Lauzen promised to keep the County tax levy flat and that’s exactly what he’s done. And isn’t a politician who keeps that kind of promise at least as interesting as a deficit? Given what we’ve gone over here, they’ll clearly be able to make it up without raising taxes.
Sure, some fees might go up, but that only affects the folks who avail themselves of those services and it won’t be by a significant amount.
Of course, the ancillary players are already whining about how the money’s being spent, but I don’t care if the Chairman spends it on hookers and blow as long as the County continues to function and my taxes don’t go up.
So relax! Take a really deep breath and pour yourself a shot of Jack. And I’m only talking to the reporters.