A New Year’s Resolution for Kerr County
by Carolyn Kahant
Ah … it had to end sometime.
Almost two months of blissfully ignoring the finer points of Kerr County business.
But now, a new year. And an election year at that!
What are your top concerns for 2006? What I see are issues that have sprung
from 2005. One is the repeated failure of the Treasurer to get county payments made on time. The controversy gained momentum
toward year-end and inspired me to get creative with these lyrics from “The Music Man.”.
Trouble, oh we got trouble,
Right here in Kerr County.
With a capital “B”
That rhymes with “T”
And that stands for Treasurer.
We’ve surely got trouble,
Right here in Kerr County!
Gotta figger out a way
To make sure we pay all those
Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble,
I couldn't resist having a little fun. While the amount of money involved is minor, the Treasurer’s office was
embroiled in too much discord last year to overlook . So we'll be looking in
The other financially-based issue involved the Mountain Home VFD/EDS dispute, which seemed to be on the mend.
However, a letter to the editor in this week's West Kerr Current reveals some deep disastisfaction still remaining. More on
that at a later date.
In both cases, we see fractious relationships
and an inability to keep everyone on the same page.
Juvenile Detention Facility has been quiet of late, but we note that the influx of Katrina victims, heralded as bringing increased
income to offset, or even eliminate, the facility's red ink, did not work out in the end. It's not an easy road,
we know, and there is sure to be further difficulties ahead.
Last year’s unpopular property tax increase has County Judge Pat Tinley saying that economic development is the
way to reduce the burden on the homeowner … now carrying 77 percent of the tax base! He suggests an “incentive
package” to attract new businesses.
This is the usual prescription of government (find ways to increase the tax base), rather than cutting back
on it’s own growth, but we shall watch and see.
Last year's Supreme Court decision in Kelo vs. New London, Conn. created concern for private property rights throughout the
nation. Here in Texas, the Trans-Corridor represents a mandate to abrogate private property to a state consortium. Some of
that targeted property resides in Kerr County, making this a major local issue for 2006.
Small counties like ours need to keep our act in order, or we’ll be even more inclined to get sucked into the
big Federal Grant & Giveaway Monster. You know, the one that tells us it can
do a better job, dangles our own money in front of us, and finally “gives” us a little after deducting
their administrative expenses.
We received some of that money last year to purchase electronic voting machines for vision and hearing-impaired voters
-- almost $300,000 for Kerr County alone; extend that to the entire U.S. and you’re talking some real money! We’re
now left with the expense of maintenance and “rental fees” from the municipalities for these costly machines. As Precinct 4 commissioner Dave Nicholson said, it’s “an expensive solution
for a non-existent problem.”
Another source of federal money is the Dept. of Homeland Security, which has quickly taken on a lot of authority over
local governments. Last year, Kerr County (again, one among many) received a $100,000 communications trailer and van, without
even asking for it. It didn’t seem necessary to me at the time, and now "Chairman Chertoff" agrees. In a recent
announcement limiting new funding to high-threat urban areas, he said:
“The fact of the matter
is our security is much too important to be determined with funding decisions that are driven by arbitrary formulas, or political
formulas, or a desire to give everybody a little bit of something. What we have to do is drive these decisions by looking
at where the major risks are and allocating our priorities accordingly.”
In other words, the previous money was not well-spent or, … they goofed again! Though I’m sure our Sheriff
will take good care of the trailer.
So how about a community New Year’s Resolution that goes like
this: We’ll stay as independent as possible by keeping our own house in order; we’ll pay close attention to where
the money goes; we’ll shun big government schemes; and to make it happen, we’ll all get out and vote!