Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wright: Do as I say, not as I do

Not really sure where I’m going with this post; it’s more of an observation made today.

But, let me start at the beginning.

For weeks now, the county administration has talked about making drastic cuts to it's annual spending plan.

County Mayor Tim Burchett and his chief of staff, Dean Rice, say they’re not balancing the budget (which goes to the county commission on May 1) with reserve funds.

That's what the last administration did. To the tune of $3 million.

So right off the bat, Burchett and Co. need to save that much.

But really, they want to save – or cut – more. They feel that local government is too big right now.

And don't forget: They’re running scared of the debt Knox County accumulated over the years and they want – I believe – to pay it off quicker than they need to.

Now, however, they need to find even more savings.

Last night, the commission – against the mayor’s wishes – signed off on the sheriff’s request to take $2.2 million from the reserves so he could buy the department 65 new patrol cars.

(The county’s rainy day fund before the vote was around $39 million.)

The mayor felt the sheriff should wait until the new budget cycle starts – not take it out in mid-stream – to make the request. He was also concerned that government rating agencies might frown upon such practices.

Now, I’m not saying the sheriff doesn’t need the cars. He probably does. I was behind one this morning and it looked kind of busted up.

So, what am I saying?

OK, getting to that right now.

Flash forward to today’s audit committee hearing.

Just before – or right after – the meeting began, county Commissioner Dave Wright (also a member of the committee) said he had something on his mind and wanted to make a statement.

Now, I have no idea why he did this. (No, I didn’t ask. Don’t care. I'm just like to ramble.)

He looks into the audience of about 10 people, and tells the group that he and county Senior Director of Finance John Troyer (who was in the audience) are friends.

He then mentions how the commission not only signed off on the new cars – yes Dave was one of the seven who supported the move – but that when the administration brings the commission its budget, he wants “to see considerable savings” in it.

He reiterated this three or four times. (I lost track. Was playing a mean game of Angry Birds on my phone.)

Well, what was the point of that?

I mean, here’s JT sitting in the meeting, minding his own business and a commissioner calls him out. Hey, it’s not Troyer’s problem that the board just sandbagged the administration by $2.2 million. He pretty much argued against it along with the mayor.

Now, don’t go yet.

There’s more.

Again, Wright wants “considerable savings” in the budget.

But, during Monday’s commission luncheon Wright sided with the majority that also doesn’t want to cut the board’s auto allowances (which the mayor did to his own staff), and wants to increase the board’s discretionary funds.

(The commissioners have their reasons, and I have a story about it tomorrow – or today, or yesterday, or whenever you get around to reading this nonsense. My nonsense. Not theirs. Well, maybe their nonsense. That’s up to you to decide. Not me.)

Anyhoo, like I said: It was just an observation.

Troyer probably thinks I’m picking on him, but I’m not.

I’m picking on Wright.


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