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Observations on the Proposed FY15-16 Huntersville Budget

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huntersville town hallAnother Huntersville focused article ahead in case you want to stop reading now.

I delivered the remarks below during the public comment session for the proposed FY15-16 budget at the Huntersville Town Board meeting on Monday, May 18. You can view the entire budget here along with the Town Manager’s summary here. I was the lone speaker for or against the budget – not including the gentleman who spoke about bike trails and referenced the lack of bike related spending in the budget. I was disappointed no one else came out to speak for/against the budget during the requisite comment period, especially in a town of 50K plus people, but can’t say I was surprised. Contact information for the Town Board and Mayor can be found here if you’re interested in discussing specifics of the budget.

I understand the budget process for a town the size of Huntersville is complicated and lengthy, involving input from multiple people at budget retreats and workshops – none of which I was able to attend. I also recognize that a budget is an educated estimate of both revenue and expenditures over the course of the fiscal year. My remarks were not intended to focus on a few line-item expenditures alone, rather, the spending priorities and philosophical view of the role of government this budget represents. My time was limited to three minutes so I attempted to focus my remarks.

I believe government, even local government, should have a limited role. I believe a budget reflects the priorities of government staff and elected officials currently in office. A vote for the proposed FY15-16 budget in June would be an affirmation of the spending priorities contained therein – spending which over emphasizes Parks & Recreation, “Main Street” development, centralized economic development efforts, and non-motorized transportation spending among other things. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily unique to Huntersville.

One point of clarification – Mayor Swain correctly pointed out after my remarks that the $6 million allotted for “greenway development” was not formally budgeted for FY15-16, but for FY18. Greenway spending is a part of the Town’s 2020 plan, but I guess I just need it explained to me why this expenditure is even included in this year’s budget when spending isn’t expected to occur until FY18?

– Madam Mayor, Commissioners, I am here tonight to speak in opposition to the proposed budget.

My request tonight is simple, that each of you reconsider this budget in its entirety before voting in June with the following in mind – the town budget should limit itself to protecting the life, liberty, and property of the residents of Huntersville. If a budget item requires money be taken from one resident and given to another resident or group to whom it doesn’t belong for a purpose beyond protecting the life, liberty, and property of all residents, strike that budget item immediately. If, however, you vote for this 150 page budget in June in its current form without making any effort to remove wasteful spending, you will be doing a great disservice to the Town.

One thing I find to be truer the older I get, there really is nothing new under the sun.

This budget is not unique. Politicians and leaders of all stripes since time immemorial have sought to direct human affairs according to their own whims. In an effort to create their ideal society, politicians must take the property of some citizens and give to others because governments do not create wealth on their own, they merely redistribute that which citizens have been forced to send to it. But since we live in a world of scarce resources, politicians are constrained by the reality of a limited amount of taxpayer money available for their use in any given year.

Just a few examples of spending I believe should be reconsidered upon a cursory review of 150 pages:

– The Loch Norman Pipe Band will say they need $2,000.00 because they’re a part of the Highland Games which benefits the region economically;

– The police chief will say he needs $165,000.00 for an armored vehicle to protect the Town and officers based on a hypothetical, future situation. But why stop at a single armored vehicle based on this logic? Further, this request may be moot in light of the recent AP report about President Obama’s new policy prohibiting the federal government from providing some military-style equipment to local police deparments;

– The Lake Norman Economic Development Corporation will say it needs approx. $150,000.00 to promote the Town because apparently there were no businesses in Huntersville or the Lake Norman region before the EDC existed;

– The Huntersville Fitness & Aquatic Center will say it needs ongoing taxpayer monies even after a decade in existence in order to promote the health and well-being of residents;

– $6 million for walking trails in the woods a small minority of the Town uses that could instead be used to improve local roads, service bond debt, or simply remain with taxpayers;

And I could go on time permitting… Where does this transfer of wealth end?

What is visible in this budget are the beneficiaries of policy choices or a few individuals, what is not immediately visible in this budget are the endless businesses and job opportunities that could have been created but for the transfer of wealth away from productive enterprises to government. A good elected official recognizes both.

The easiest thing in the world is spending someone else’s money – don’t take the easy route this time. Reconsider this budget as proposed before voting next month. Thank you.

 

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