By Commissioner Kathy Danner, 4th District
Budgeting is about prioritization. It's how we get our house in order. Like your household budget the County has to pick and choose what we can afford.
It's time to get our priorities straight; we can start by asking hard questions like if the County owning businesses that compete with the private sector is a good thing? Or, could those assets be used to pay for schools, roads and the Sheriff's department?
When I took office seven years ago, I asked the 4th district for money saving ideas and I called it "The People's List. I mentioned this list in a recent article in the Tennessean and would like to share it with you:
- Sell the hospital. The budget committee will be asked to vote on a resolution Monday night that if they approve would allow the formation of a task force to study the feasibility of selling the hospital. Many people are unaware the County owns Williamson Medical Center. If sold the transition would be seamless to the public, the hospital would simply have new ownership and employees would go to work just like they do now. The hospital currently pays no property taxes.
- Sell the Convention Center. Most people are unaware that the County owns the convention center attached to the Marriot in Cool Springs.
- Ask our Cities to donate their Adequate Schools and Facilities tax dollars to the schools for which the tax was intended.
- Offer Employees "Medical Centers" for primary care as a choice for reduced co-payments and convenience. In a self-funded insurance plan like the County has, research has demonstrated employee health centers reduce cost, improve employee health care and reduce absenteeism. Let's explore all options.
- Engage citizens in money saving ideas or suggestions by putting the county checkbook on line. While the budget shows allocations, the checkbook shows where the dollars are spent and with whom. The State of Texas does this now.
- Get competitive bids for things like health insurance or legal counsel. The State does not require it so it is seldom done. Hire outside government optimization consultants to audit the County for best practices.
- I would encourage those who asking for a property tax increase for schools to make a donation to the Williamson County, 501c3 educational foundation. This is how private citizens and the business community can support public education.
- The County subsidizes Parks and Recreation about $12 million a year. A small increase in fees, would help reduce this deficit. All County and hospital Employees use the facilities for free.
- We spend about one million dollars per year on longevity pay. Could we use that money to motivate and incentivize employees who make suggestions that would save money or make operations more efficient?
- Ask employees whose spouses who have alternative health care plans to opt-out of the County plan. This is what the private sector does.
Why adopt a property tax when there are numerous money saving options still on the table?
Let's get the house in order with the People's List and avoid a property tax increase.