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Government service reductions
Old 06-14-2009, 02:24 PM   #1
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Government service reductions

One of my biggest frustrations when w*rking was trying to meet unrealistic demands made by politicians when I did not have the resources adequate to the demands. The one answer you could never give them was "I can't do that with my current personnel allocation". What they wanted to hear was "I made your constituent happy and he won't be calling again - about this problem". We wasted a lot of time and effort doing temporary fixes to major long-term problems, or fixing piddly things and letting the big problems go untreated.

We could have fixed many of those problems with our existing resources, but we would have needed some breathing room to put long term strategies in place and make them work. In other words, we needed the politicians to stop expecting all of their issues to get top priority and be realistic about what we could do and in what order of prioritization. Well, that or give us more money. But nobody wanted to tell a constituent that their problem, no matter how small, wasn't getting anything but the immediate and urgent attention they wanted.

Interesting article here about Michigan cutting back on road repair costs by converting some paved roads back to gravel surfaces.
Quote:
More than 20 of the state's 83 counties have reverted deteriorating paved roads to gravel in the last few years, according to the County Road Association of Michigan. The counties are struggling with their budgets because tax revenues have declined in the lingering recession.

the county estimates it takes about $10,000 to grind up a mile of pavement and put down gravel. It takes more than $100,000 to repave a mile of road.
http://www.wwmt.com/articles/roads-1...-counties.html

Given the current state of the economy, and some of the things going on in taxation, I think that a lot of local and state governments are going to be faced with choices between cutting services or raising taxes. There has to be a limit to how much they can raise taxes (I hope there is a limit) so ultimately some politicians are going to have to make cuts.

I'm curious what are your priorities for services supplied by local government (police, fire, ambulance, water, streets, etc.). Are their things that you can live without? Can you accept gravel roads, more potholes, less frequent trash pick up, changes in priorities in how the police respond to problems (not emergencies)?
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Old 06-14-2009, 02:46 PM   #2
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Interesting post and very good points. Personally, I could live with less frequent garbage p/u. We have 2 times weekly pickup here and once is sufficient. I hate the idea of more potholes, because I'm convinced that potholes are hard on your car. Maybe I'm paranoid due to my lead foot (ha), but I wish more of our city cops had something to do besides lying in wait behind some blind or other waiting for some citizen to be driving 35 in a 25 mph zone. Another example, here in our subdivision, this traffic cop has been watching a 4-way stop in the neighborhold and writing tickets for "rolling stops" in a residential sub-division. Please. Surely there is a more effective use of that city employee's time. I am fine with the police department prioritizing non-emergency problems.
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Old 06-14-2009, 06:09 PM   #3
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I could live with a lot less services. Trash/recycle pickup could be monthly if they had a drop off place if you needed. Not sure that parks and recs needs as much as they appear to get. The parks here are way overplanted and way too manicured. Bet that senior services and schools and libraries could do with less. To me it is enough to have the basic facilities and I see no need for librarians to read to toddlers, 100 after school clubs in the high schools or square dance callers and breakfast/lunch programs for seniors. I do value all the members of the community but do not see it as governments role to provide food and entertainment for us. Fire, life and safety are essential services and should not be cut. Social services should be only those designated by the courts for protection of individuals requiring it.
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Old 06-15-2009, 01:10 PM   #4
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Great post!
what are your priorities for services supplied by local government (police, fire, ambulance, water, streets, etc.). Are their things that you can live without? Can you accept gravel roads, more potholes, less frequent trash pick up, changes in priorities in how the police respond to problems (not emergencies)?

Country mouse reporting in...I already pretty much live this way.

Police - basic coverage thru state and county.
Fire - local volunteer department, well funded by community contributions. Some state and county assistance to their fund chest.
Ambulance - private company.
Water - municipal, pay $220 per year, no metering (yet).
Streets - county funds support maintenance of paved roads. Fresh resurfacing is rare, asphalt patches and tar used for holes/cracks. There are many seasonal roads, i.e. never been paved but are freshly re-done with gravel and tar every few years.
Trash - private company, self-paid.
Snowplowing - town, county and state crews.

It is frightening to think about a degradation in already minimal services.
My state is in a real pickle financially.
Let's hope they get the career deadbeats off the dole before they cut back on providing municipal services.
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Old 06-16-2009, 09:38 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leonidas View Post
One of my biggest frustrations when w*rking was trying to meet unrealistic demands made by politicians when I did not have the resources adequate to the demands.
That's one of the reasons I retired when I did. The job was great, the people I worked with were terrific, but I got frustrated with trying to explain to idiots why I needed a $500 piece of hardware/software right now to work this case. The procurement process was apparently designed to prevent anything from being accomplished. It was designed to cover everyone's butt before they parted with a nickel.

In other words, don't tell me I have to do this job and then deny the resources necessary to do it.

WV does things very efficiently I think, although I marvel at the dedication of a lot of those state and county employees who aren't paid half of what they're worth. I guess the quality of life makes up for it since in many parts of the state a "traffic jam" is two cars at the stop sign and "rush hour" lasts 20 minutes.

We do pay a private company for once-a-week trash pickup, the homeowners association pays for street maintenance and snow plowing among other things ($400/year) so the HOA does things that in other areas are done by local government. All public roads in WV are state roads, the counties do not do any building/maintenance of them. Of course that also means the counties do not decide what roads are plowed or when, and much of the state's snow-plowing budget is reserved for the really mountainous areas.

While WV has a reputation in the surrounding states as the one with the worst roads, I haven't seen significant differences. MD and PA do have better paving, fewer potholes, and more frequent snow plowing, but their taxes, especially Maryland's, are higher. This means that in a significant snowfall, if you're not willing to wait a couple of days to go somewhere, you WILL need a 4WD vehicle.

So in local governmental services, as in most other areas of life, generally you get what you pay for.
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Old 06-17-2009, 11:34 AM   #6
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Here's one I picked up from a local radio talk-show. The host was ranting a little about Los Angeles spending $2 Million for a parade for the Lakers. That's on top of paying for the police cars that celebrators burned the night that they won. He transitioned to the upcoming 4th of July celebrations here, where most cities outlaw fireworks in private hands, but pay for a municipal fireworks show that often includes concerts, parades, etc.

I live in a little city where the local government has done a great job of improving the local economy by bringing in large employers. They recently cut the property tax rate even though appraisal increases means that they are getting more money. But I compare them to a bordering city, about a third our size, where they have ZERO city property tax.

Our neighbors have also brought in a number of new employers, smaller and not as high-profile, but they don't throw as much money at amenities that make the city pretty to look at. My city is building new parks, a minor league ballpark, a convention center, etc., while the people next door are doing with much fewer such frills while not being taxed for any city services (other than user fees for things like water and sewer). Of course they can take advantage of all our amenities by driving a little farther.

I pay around $800 a year in city RE taxes and I get the same basic services as do those folks one town over. There are a lot of look-nice feel-good extras thrown in though. The difference is, and I'm not sure how much of this to attribute to local government, here the homes are larger, newer, and more expensive. I think my city spends a lot of money on being appealing to potential residents and employers, which does protect the value of my home somewhat.
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Old 06-17-2009, 01:04 PM   #7
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Our city is in serious financial trouble, some of which is due to legacy costs for retirees. Winter plowing has to occur for safety reasons and so people can go to work. Same with salting--our city is built on the side of a hill.

Tourism is a big part of our economy and we spend a lot of money of parks and recreation. Some of that is already being cut and you can see it.

Economic development is a bit hard unless is relates to our port. Our port is doing well, shipping big wind turbines manufactured in the US to all over the world.

Police and fire departments are going through cuts.

Our governor, who does not approve of this collectivist northeastern part of the state, thinks we are terribly run, waste money, and in general should be cut off from assistance. But those southerners sure want us to look pretty when they come here to escape the summer heat. A toll perhaps?

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Old 06-17-2009, 01:08 PM   #8
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But those southerners sure want us to look pretty when they come here to escape the summer heat. A toll perhaps?
Don't you have a steep hotel/motel/car rental tax? If not, enact one.
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Old 06-17-2009, 01:11 PM   #9
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Don't you have a steep hotel/motel/car rental tax? If not, enact one.

We do. And a city sales tax too. But it is hard to live off of a three, four month tourist season.
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Old 06-17-2009, 01:28 PM   #10
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We do. And a city sales tax too. But it is hard to live off of a three, four month tourist season.
Maybe the city should shut down and move south for the winter.
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