Pain expected as county faces costs
The year of 2013, at the county level of government, should be declared the year of accountability. This calendar year is truly a time of tough decisions, especially if your desire is to have a government that is responsive and functions properly.
The new group of elected officials at the county level is willing to take the challenges head on and make the difficult decisions to rectify the problems which have been kicked down the road year after year.
Keep in mind, if we cannot take care of our outstanding infrastructure problems and budget deficits at the local level, we should never expect to prevail over our troubles at the national level.
We either step up as a county, or we knowingly kick the outstanding infrastructure and budget problems down the road even further, making things exponentially worse. The key word is “knowingly” as the citizens are now aware of the problems our county faces.
Only one of the Board of Education members was on the board when a list of unfortunate financial decisions was made. Four out of the five members were elected to pick up the pieces.
Nevertheless, the irony is the two former BOE members who drove the regrettable decisions over their several terms in office were from Tyrone and Brooks, the same areas taking the brunt of the misery from school closings.
To anyone who has dutifully read this newspaper over the years, you know there were many public calls to not re-elect the two BOE members from Tyrone and Brooks, but to no avail. Voting for people who will promise you anything and avoid everything of consequence will land you in a world of hurt.
There were no easy choices for the new 2013 BOE. They are doing what they can to shed enough expenses to resolve the budget issues, maintain the high level of quality of education and get us back on track to meet the future demands on the system.
Remember, do not blame the Fire Department for your house catching on fire; likewise, do not blame the 2013 BOE for turning on the hose over a four-alarm fire they did not set, a financial fire fueled by voter inaction.
On the Board of Commissioners side, we are battling a couple of fires of our own. First, revenues to the county government have declined. In fact, the property valuation in the county has declined around 20 percent since 2007.
To exacerbate the decline in revenue, the Board of Commissioners has also been deficit-spending over those years.
We are taking the financial situation very seriously, willing to make some tough decisions. Like the BOE decisions, we have reached the point where there is going to be some pain. It is time to do what is right and prove to the taxpayers that local government is willing to be accountable and stop kicking the can down the road.
We also have an expensive list of stormwater problems under our county roads, totaling in the tens of millions of dollars. This particular can has been kicked down the road for 40 years.
Obviously, the stormwater system infrastructure under our roads was eventually going to have to be replaced, but no funds were set aside over time. We now have pipes with 25-year lifespans pushing 40 years of age. We have arrived at the critical stage where roads are giving way.
We had to save roads at Merrydale and Kari Glen where culverts collapsed underneath the road, stealing the funding out of our general fund. Just the other day, we lost Morrison Road as it washed out around the culvert, stranding an entire subdivision. These failures will continue more and more as time goes on.
Flat Creek Trail is in danger as well. We have a fire station on that road, so you can imagine the problems we would have with response times if they had to use longer alternate routes.
The fix to the stormwater situation is simple. We identify problems, gather the funding and start making the repairs. The catch is the projects are expensive. A plea of ignorance will not work any longer as we will knowingly suffer more with inaction.
Yes, many of these crises could have been avoided, but they were not. However, unlike the catastrophe we have at the federal level, you have people at the local level who are willing to make the tough decisions.
Steve Brown, Chairman
Fayette County Board of Commissioners
Peachtree City, Ga.