Levy residents need to take part in county budget process

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By Marsha Drew

Headlines from every corner of the nation and our state are unanimous in their message… the government bank account is running dry and the cupboard is bare. Florida counties and municipalities report that jobs are on the chopping block, others will see wage freezes, services are being cut and in some cases taxes will rise. Levy County is no different. The “Great Recession” may be on our doorstep.

A recent statistic I read was that each American household had a federal obligation, in 2008, of $546,668.00. That is your household’s part of the federal debt last year, far more than most of our houses are worth. We can’t control federal spending as easily, but we can work together to spend our tax dollars wisely on a local level.

County budget hearings begin on July 7 at 1 p.m. These meetings, which continue through August, with individual county departments up for review, will focus on their estimated costs for operating in 2009/2010 and questions will be raised regarding departmental efficiency.

Too often meetings draw little to no public attendance. To help you provide meaningful comments, my Web site www.marshadrew.com has numerous links to the existing budget and some of the proposed budgets for next year. The Web site “calendar of events” will also have the budget meeting dates that everyone can and should attend. I suggest that taxpayers educate themselves and take part in the process.

Issues such as employee take home vehicles, employee scheduling and an efficiency analysis of the operating systems within our government are all issues I’ve investigated and will bring to the table for discussion.

We have many intelligent people in our community who can help solve the crisis we face. Margaret Mead said “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

Since taking office I’ve spent an enormous number of hours studying our budget, looking for ways to trim and reorganize. There is nothing more difficult to undertake than leading a movement for change. I need you to participate. All of us, you and I included, grew during the good times without much thought to our spending. Government was no exception.

Surviving the lean years ahead will require a spirit of cooperation and we will need to think outside the box and consider new ways of doing things. I have no doubt that some services we’ve taken for granted will be cut. What they will be I have no way of knowing. Our county budget offers us numerous opportunities to change wasteful spending practices, while retaining the services that are critical for public welfare.

Department heads and county employees are aware of the crisis and I’m happy to report most are onboard and are willing to help in every way they can.

I can’t stress enough how important it is for the citizens of Levy County to be present and take part in budget hearings. These are your tax dollars and it is crucial that you show an interest in how they’re spent. So often people pay no attention to the process and then complain about the result. Let’s all be part of the solution.

Marsha Drew is the Levy County Commissioner from District 3.