Reservedly betterPublished 5:05pm Saturday, December 8, 2012
Daily Herald Editorial
A discussion point at last week’s Mower County Board meeting demonstrated yet again why commissioners should spend a significant portion of the county’s multi-million-dollar reserves rather than sit on the money.
The county government has been cutting support for what it terms “non-mandated” programs while planning hefty tax increases for commercial and agricultural property, despite holding more than $13 million in reserve funds. One of the programs likely to lose county funding in 2013 is the Parenting Resource Center’s crisis nursery. The $7,000 that the program receives provides services to young children — services delivered at a stage of young people’s development that is particularly critical, a time when timely interventions can make a difference in how many services a child might need later in life. In other words, $7,000 is an investment that saves taxpayers money in later years. And because that money is spent on payroll, goods and services for the crisis center, it circulates many times through the local economy.
The county’s reserves represent a vast over-collection of taxes from county property owners during previous years. So the best thing to do with the extra money is return it to property owners in the form of the lowest possible tax rate during 2013. But as the crisis center example shows, spending the reserves locally is a strong second-best to lowering taxes. And either is far preferable to having all those dollars sequestered in government accounts.