Large tax increase a bad idea for board of health

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More criticism received from 100 Wake Up Drive

By Ben Carlson

Column as I see ’em …
It’s fairly surprising that the health department director is pushing for a 33 percent revenue increase in the agency’s next budget. (See A1 for details).
I get why he’s doing it; the department took a major revenue blow this year thanks to a Medicaid insurer that is refusing to pay its bills, and he’s right that those who work there should not have to endure another year of furlough days.
But I’d go from fairly surprised to downright shocked if the board of health even considers raising taxes that much, if for no other reason than to avoid yet another lengthy public relations disaster that would almost certainly follow.
I’d place the odds at 100-to-1 that enough residents — it takes only five — would sign a petition to get the ball rolling for public referendum, and the odds at 1,000-to-1 that such a referendum would easily pass a countywide vote.
That would take months to complete and give taxpayers still smarting from the previous board’s decision to construct the department’s current home every reason to dredge that up all over again.
Under current law, the health board is allowed to set a tax rate that will increase revenue 4 percent from the previous year, which would give the department an additional $20,000, depending on countywide property values, etc.
Anything beyond that can and almost certainly will trigger a referendum.
The health department and its board have taken tremendous strides in the past year to rebuild their images and finances. Gone is the ill will that was palpable between the health department and other public agencies, and for that we can all thank the current director.
The department has wiped out nearly all of its annual losses and were it not for the Medicaid payment hiccup, would likely have posted a $100,000 profit for the year, again thanks in large measure to the director.
More importantly, that recovery has lead to record numbers of people who need services getting them, which saves us all money in the long run.
One argument made recently by a board member is that if the health board considers a large tax increase, there will be 20 people at that meeting shouting it down, none of whom are the people who rely on that facility for their healthcare needs.
That’s absolutely true. If the most recent presidential election proved anything it’s that those who receive public assistance will pull the curtain and vote for whichever sugar daddy is offering the most freebies.
But in public, it’s those who are forced to pay for those freebies who yell the loudest while those on the receiving end are nowhere to be found.
What isn’t true about that statement is the number of people who will be there to yell. If, and that’s a big if, the health board goes beyond a 4 percent revenue increase, it’s a safe bet that there will be considerably more than 20 people will show up to complain.
For the good of everyone, let’s hope that isn’t necessary.

Speaking of complaining …
Last week I introduced you to a reading-challenged critic not brave enough to put her name on a letter she sent.
She’s back again this week with a fresh round of criticism but still unwilling to sign her name.
I won’t bore you with the entire letter, but I enjoyed several zingers directed my way, particularly that I should consider “lying on someone’s couch to work out [my] issues.”
She also says that she’s actually a he, claims she’s just trying to make me “more tolerable to the masses,” and even does her best impression of Duck Dynasty’s lovable Si character by injecting the word “Jack” at the end of a sentence.
I guess in her mind that passes for wit.
What was really amusing, though, was her request that I cancel her subscription despite giving me a fake address — 100 Wake Up Drive — and being too chicken to sign her name.
Here’s the deal, hon, if you’re too afraid to offer your criticism in public, I understand. So just give me a call and I will personally stop your paper from being delivered and promise to never reveal your name.