You may have heard of the recent outrage from Bell, California where out-of-control government payrolls sent furious residents to the streets in protest. In a town with a median annual income of $30,000, the city manager was living large on $800,000 per year of taxpayer money.
While our payroll problems here in Polk County are not yet that extreme, our overall costs for employees and services provided by Polk County government are growing unsustainably. Many of our county government functions are in serious need of streamlining and improvements in efficiencies. The democrat-controlled Polk County Board of Supervisors has laid the foundation for Polk County to become part of a disastrous nationwide trend in unsustainable local government budgeting.
On average, Polk County spends $106,000 a year for each employee. This means that, compared to employee costs in the private sector, Polk County’s overall employee costs are already 28% too high.
Even though Polk County spends 28% more than the private sector on employees, salaries for Polk County employees who provide essential services (like deputies, engineers, doctors, and nurses) still trail other Midwest states. That means that even though the county is spending more than it should overall, none of that spending is finding its way to the essential services employees who are the backbone of county government.
In these tough economic times, county government must prioritize its spending. Polk County should focus first on its statutory responsibility to ensure public safety and worry about its other functions second. Polk County must get its overall employee costs under control so it can properly fund its core employees and services—and then return the surplus to the taxpayers.
Faced with this kind of ill-prioritized spending, I believe it’s time for a new philosophy on the Board of Supervisors. It’s time that Polk County Leads the Way, towards Honest, Fair and Open Government.
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