Public should weigh in on wants vs needs

Deb Hadachek Editor

Elected officials and government employees don’t have an easy job to balance the wants and needs of the public against the reality of what it costs to operate.

But there’s the important phrase: the wants and needs of the public.

Not necessarily the wants and needs of a government employee or administrator or department head. We respect their training and expertise and advice in the areas in which they work.

But that does not make them the final and the only word on what’s necessary. The public also needs to weigh in on their priorities.

The county commission deserves credit for really digging into the 2019 budget to try to keep the county tax obligation at or near
the same level as last year.

The majority of taxpayers voted to say school improvements for USD 109 were something they considered a priority, and they were willing to pay for the project.

While that doesn’t mean all other needs should be put on the back burner, it also means in times of limited tax dollars, taxpayers and governments alike should think hard about what they’re willing to give up to make it a reality.

I rarely (if ever) hear anyone at a county commission or city council or school board meeting say the one little phrase that would really make my heart go pitter-patter:

“How could we cut five or 10 percent from our expenses?” Because that’s exactly what every farmer and business owner and retired person will do (and probably a larger percentage) in order to pay their tax obligations this year.

Businesses will limit the number of employees they hire if revenue can’t cover the expense.  They will expect the employees they do have to do more with less. Raises and help with personal health insurance costs are just a dream.

Farmers and businesses will put off equipment and computer purchases, and make do with what they have.

All citizens will have less money to spend on our main streets because of what goes to pay for our government services.

I’ve come under fire recently from county employees who don’t like that I ask questions during commissioner meetings.

I’m not out to make enemies. But one thing I know after some 35 years in this business, is that taxpayers aren’t asking nearly enough questions or making other perspectives known.

Instead, we just complacently accept whatever we’re told about what’s good for us, and never, ever, ever should we question the cost or the need.

If government officials and taxpayers alike are concerned about our local economy, they should pack the Blair Theater next Monday night, June 18, for a presentation by Republic County Economic Development on opportunities for economic growth.

The strength of our county is not built on one city, one group of people, one business. If teachers and county employees want raises and equipment, they should also work to help strengthen the private sectors that pay the bills.

Republic County is 40 times more dependent on agriculture than the national average, one study notes. No surprise there.

We are in tough times right now because of drought and low prices. There’s a saying “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.” History tells us that’s true.

Now is not the time to panic, but to toughen up, to work together, and make hard choices about what we do need, and don’t need, and new things we can do to survive in the future.

Opportunity in Rural event –