Publication Date: 03/14/08
Ahhhh! Imagine the luxury of a bottled water station right in your office. No need to share the chrome public water fountain down the hall with others and their germs, or to lug a little cooler from home with a liter or two. How sweet it is!
Well, it was.
Removing bottled water stations from St. Johns County government buildings comes as the county tightens up its operating expenses. Faced with more revenue declines as property tax reform takes hold, County Administrator Michael Wanchick removed the bottled water; approximately a $60,000 annual contract.
It may look like a small step but it's the beginning of a new way to do business. When the state cuts, local governments must cut, too. At the heart of the reduction is property tax reform the result of a public outcry against the past decade of rising costs of government.
So far, county government's revenue slash is a total of $31 million through cuts made this year and the year after. While there are some state forecasts that the gloomy picture will start a turnaround in a year or two, there's still the potential for another $17 million reduction locally in three years. All this is in the name of property tax relief.
The centerpiece is the 2008 constitutional amendment, known on the ballot as Amendment One. It was approved by 64 percent of Florida's voters last January. Is that a mandate to cut more or what?
Clearly Wanchick, who came from Texas last summer to become county administrator, has a strong resolve and the support to do so. Working with Doug Timms, the county's director of the Office of Management & Budget, and the County Commission, cost-savings initiatives are under way. County employees have been asked for their advice. On Saturday, The Record will partner with the county to involve you, the taxpayers, in the process.
We expect our local governments to trim the fat, delay some anticipated expenses and plans and even some new hires. Businesses and households cut back, why not government?
A leaner county government is the goal. But to accomplish this, more than bottled water contracts are on the line. We expect the people who spend our tax dollars to be thrifty. Hence, private businesses, who have had long-term contracts with county government, cannot assume they will roll over into a new year next October as they have done.
The county should have been doing this kind of scrutiny all along. Long-term suppliers should not assume government contracts are permanent. County Administrator Wanchick assures us this review sets the tone for the future, budget crisis or not.
St. Johns County's $706-million operation must run like a business in good times and in those not so good. As taxpayers, we should demand no less.
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