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Editorial: Time to sacrifice the sacred cow
6/23/2012 1:07:00 PM
Taxing districts are slicing and dicing, but not everything is on the table. As residents face higher local taxes just about everywhere they turn, the time of sacred cows is over.
Whether programs that just got started or long-time employee positions or class sizes or whatever, there are elements of district budgets that are protected from cuts by well-meaning board members. Sometimes this is out of habit, sometimes it is a knee-jerk response and sometimes it is to satisfy staff.
Every Verde Valley body that is taxing residents, including schools, fire, sewer and municipalities, has its share of sacred cows. During the last four years, there has been some painful parting with programs they liked, plans they liked, even staff members they liked. Yet, there are still areas that have been treated as untouchables.
Some governing bodies really have gotten down to the bare bones and should be commended. They can show taxpayers exactly what has been sacrificed. The taxpayers can feel it.
For the others, it is crucial for taxpayers to be keeping an eye on budgets to see what has been cut, what can still be cut and what really is, by law, mandated in the budget. As revenue continues to shrink, everything has to be on the table. Then taxpayers can judge how much financial help a district really needs.
This is not just for the benefit of taxpayers. Playing favorites in a budget session can lead to dissension in the ranks when employees feel not everyone in every department is making the same sacrifice. That can turn nasty in a hurry.
Many districts have worked very hard to protect as many paychecks as possible. These are not just numbers in a ledger but friends and esteemed colleagues. Jobs are the most difficult sacred cow of all.
In districts trying to prove they need more tax money, however, every element of the budget must prove its value to the community first. That means programs and people. Being willing to sacrifice the sacred cows is the best way to earn taxpayer trust.
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