Be careful about what you are 'just saying no' to

I am writing in response to Colleen Roberts' letter "Just say no" of May 30. It is often said that a lie told often enough becomes the truth. I believe this also holds true when it comes to the telling of half-truths.

Roberts made several points, and I hope to clarify these because I believe a democracy relies on an informed citizenry.

Roberts has stated that the county is increasing fees. It is true that some fees will be increased; however, the county is also reducing or eliminating other fees. The truth is that the fees charged cannot exceed the actual cost of the service provided. Roberts referred to the $8 million loan the county is taking for the Health and Human Services building. This loan was secured at a very low interest rate, which is lower than the returns currently being made on investments. This low-interest loan will allow the county to save approximately $200,000 without liquidating assets.

Regarding the building projects in general: These projects are taken on using a business approach and are designed to provide increased efficiency and net revenue back to the county. These projects have been funded through one-time rainy-day funds that could have stayed in the bank collecting a mere 1.4 percent interest or been used to maintain services that would eventually be cut once the money ran out. By using these funds on these building projects, the county stands to make a 10 percent return on these investments, which will repay the costs of the building projects and create ongoing operating revenue.

Roberts also states (using a very simplistic and misleading view) that the county has increased its budget more than 60 percent. The truth is the county is required by budget law to include ending fund balances in the reported budget. What that means is that the "budget" includes the dollars that have been saved and retained in that ending fund balance. If Roberts would like to see a smaller budget, then the answer would be to increase spending and not hold on to those savings. The truth is that spending from the general fund has decreased 1.74 percent.

Finally, I have proposed a funding solution to offset the current gap between expenses and resources in a jail fee surcharge. We, the citizens, could choose to stick our heads in the sand; however, I'd prefer to offer an option at an earlier date rather than wait to see what choices are left when we do face the inevitable fiscal cliff.

The truth is that governing is a complicated endeavor. I certainly have learned this over the past two-and-a-half years. Very rarely does a simple answer include the whole story.

As I stated before, a democracy relies on an accurately informed and educated public. I hope this letter has served that purpose.

Don Skundrick is chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.

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