It was about six hours into the County Commission’s June 12 budget workshop when the unexpected happened. I got inspired.
All at once, everything became clear. For my entire life, I’d been managing my personal finances all wrong. I had no transparency, no Constitutional officer presentations. Not once have I ever debated a planned expenditure in a formal committee.
Obviously, my process had to change.
“Here! Here!” I commanded, banging a ruler against my kitchen table like a gavel. “Welcome to the inaugural Flagler County Board of Cavaliere Commissioners budget workshop. First off, I don’t want anybody to think that we’re in crisis mode, but — ”
And I was interrupted.
“ … Um, what are you doing?” Commissioner Jonathan asked, scratching beneath his West Virginia University hat. “You told us we were all invited here for a dinner party.”
“We’ll start by standing to pledge the flag,” I cut in. “And next time, Mr. Clay, please speak into the microphone. This meeting is being recorded for public record.”
I rose and started pledging.
“Wait. Are you serious right now?” he asked, his voice getting quiet with concern. And, to put his mind at ease, I slid him and the rest of my board 242-page budget packets.
“As I was saying,” I continued. “We’re not in crisis mode, but as you can see from the numbers, we’re facing a $300 revenue-to-expenditure gap this year. To bridge it, we’ll need to make some tough decisions.”
“Well, if you turn to page 18, you’ll see our first problem,” Commissioner Cody started. “Can anybody tell me why we spent $473 dollars last year on gummy bears?”
That’s when Commissioner Kait — in charge of the Frivolity District — explained that we spent that much because we enjoy eating gummy bears. And that explanation seemed perfectly reasonable, even if it meant dipping into reserves in order to maintain it.
“We can go cut-crazy,” Commissioner Andrew added. “We can do that. But items like this address quality of life. If we cut gummy bears, really, what’s next? That’s the philosophical question.”
But some board members, like Commissioner Mallorie, weren’t so convinced.
“In these hard economic times,” she said, “this item is a nice-to-have — not a need-to-have.”
And, in a way, she was right. Frankly, our budget had seen better days. Ever since we moved out of our parents’ house and started paying rent, revenues have been shrinking. And then there’s expense increases to grapple with — like raised Netflix rates and how, since the early 2000s, you get about 40% less ice cream per carton of Breyers than you used to.
And don’t get me started on the unfunded mandates, like how my stomach forces me to buy Wally wings at least once a week but never once offers to foot the bill.
“I know this isn’t what you want to hear, board members,” I said, “but to bridge this shortfall, we’re going to have to make some ugly service cuts. Or we’ll need to raise revenues.”
And that spun them into a debate about raising taxes and millage. Personally, I had no idea who or how we’d tax, but I absolutely loved the sound of it. It sounded official. It sounded like government.
Oh yeah, I thought, leaning back in my chair, stretching my hands behind my head like I owned the joint. Now this is what I call fiscal responsibility.
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