May 7 2008

Blount Co. Commission will be voting on the new budget in June. Commissioner Walker recently asked for input at his blog regarding the top five areas where you'd like to see increased spending and the top five areas you'd like to see decreased or eliminated.

Everybody likes to gripe about taxes, and lots of folks, especially in Blount County, want lower taxes and less government. When you actually look at the budget, though, it's easy to see lots of areas where it would be nice to spend more and hard to find areas to cut.

It's even harder looking at it from 50,000 feet without knowing the details on some of these programs. It's a tough job to figure all this out every year (maybe a two-year budget cycle would be good?), regardless of your politics. I don't envy our elected officials and department heads.

Anyway, off the top of my head here are my priorities, better late than never...

Top five increases:

1. Education: teacher's salaries, technology, adequate facilities, vocational education, adult education

2. Public health: free/low cost clinics, teen pregnancy/STD education/prevention, substance abuse treatment/counseling

3. Law enforcement: salaries, interoperable communications systems

4. Building inspections/code enforcement

5. Animal control/shelter

Top five decreases:

1. High-tech SWAT/anti-terror vehicles and equipment

2. Infrastructure development for big-box retail

3. Drug enforcement (see corresponding increases in education/prevention)

4. School administration overhead

5. Reduce employee health insurance costs through negotiation, flexible benefits, medical savings accounts, team up with Alcoa/Maryville, other?

Increase wish list:

• Industrial development, attracting clean, green industry and jobs

• Pre-K

• School nurses

• Promoting sustainable tourism, arts

• Parks and recreation

• Land conservation/trusts

• Veterans affairs

• Regional public transportation planning

• Voter verifiable paper trail voting machines (federal funds may be available for this by way of the state legislature if they act)

• More fuel-efficient/alternative fuel county vehicles to reduce fuel costs

Send yours to Commissioner Walker and maybe he will publish the results.


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