Friday, June 12, 2009

Sad state of things closer to home

I just received(and really, I just received it, read it, and opened this posting window) a letter from Philip Cherry, the director of Onslow County Public Libraries.

The residents of Onslow County do not want a tax increase. Well, who does? So the Board of Commissioners came up with a list of cuts they can make in an effort to reduce the need for a tax increase.
  • Closing of the Richlands, Swansboro and Sneads Ferry branch libraries
  • Reduction of Main Library hours to four days per week
  • Closing of the Onslow County Museum
  • Reduction of employee health insurance benefits(employee cost sharing)
  • Elimination of 20 full time Sheriff’s Deputies
  • Sale of the Home Health/Hospice agency
  • Elimination of all Recreation programs
  • Closing of all parks, except on weekends
  • Elimination of senior citizen nutrition sites
  • Elimination of mosquito control
  • Elimination of proposed EMS basic life support ambulance service
  • Elimination of the Capital Improvement Program reserve fund
  • 36 hour, 4 day workweeks for all County employees, not including public safety
  • Elimination of Board of Education capital improvement funding
  • Reduction in Board of Education current expense funding
The letter goes on to say, "Approximately 80% of County government spending is on programs dictated by the State and Federal governments. Therefore, only “quality of life” type services can be controlled by the Board of Commissioners."

I don't want to see libraries closed and I think closed parks are a haven for mischief. I'm a fan of parks and libraries and see them as one of the few legitimate expenses of local government under our current system, though I'd like to see more push toward private interest (individuals or individual businesses) in keeping these places running. (Of course if we were allowed to keep what we earn, then we'd be more able to invest individually into parks and libraries.)

Unfortunately, Onslow county has been under some very very poor management and is now reaping what they sowed.

Maybe... just maybe... people and corporations will take a vested interest in their communities and will supply the vacuum with substitutes. If the county stops their youth services, organize. Create your own. If the county wants to close the parks during the week (I'm not even sure how this saves money... it's basically grass and trees), take your mower to your neighborhood park and mow. Keep it clean. Pick up where the county left off. If you don't want to pay for it, you've got to pick up the slack. If you don't, these will turn into vandal/vagrant hang-out spots. Your parks will be distorted to the point where you won't want to go on the weekends.

Nobody wants to pay higher taxes. I agree that there are cuts which can be made. I'm pretty sure there are other cuts than the libraries and parks, but I don't have their budget and mandates in front of me right now, but at the end of the day, it doesn't matter.

Look, in all fairness, as much as I like parks and libraries, they are not a necessity of the government. They are a "nice to have". The government needs to focus on the basics. Law, law enforcement, sanitation, roads...

An easy test on government spending is to ask yourself, "Could someone else do it?" If the answer is yes, then it can be cut. In the case of the libraries, yeah, someone else could do it. I don't think there's anyone in Onslow County who will... but that's a post for another day.

For now, Mr Cherry, I feel your pain. I understand the need for a library in that town and we were common visitors to the Doris (Main) Branch. I hope you don't close... I know that community needs a library (though a lot of people don't even know you're there). You've got my sympathy. I appreciate what you do for the community. I don't live there, so you can't get my tax money. Once this blows over and we see where you are (your longevity) we'll check to see what we can do from out here.


Just John said...

EMS services? That's a bit worrisome. Privatization of parks usually leads to skyrocketing admission or usage fees, but I suppose that's a necessary evil if you want to have usable parks.

Hi, My name is: Tim said...

I think it is not that they are going to lose EMS, but a capability that they were planning on getting for their EMS. I think you'll still have people in ambulances taking people to the hospital. As for parks, if the community cares to take turns mowing, or to pool monies and hire a caretaker... it can be done... I think it'd be alright... especially in onslow co. the only people going to those parks are the neighborhood kids anyway and the neighborhood is the best place to take care of those places.