How Fiscal Prudence Becomes Fiscal Profligacy
In the page 1 story for the June 15 issue of The ACTA Watchdog, we said “we’re not asking for frugality, but a little fiscal prudence would be nice.” We also provided a chart comparing the growth in county spending from 2000 to 2005 of 42% to the much slower growth in personal income (19%) over the same period. Fiscal prudence on the part of the Arlington County Board would have limited the growth in county spending to no more than 19%.
So, just how does the County Board “grow the budget” in excess of personal income? They do it by finding “unmet needs” here and “unmet needs” there and essentially “spend a little here” and “spend a little there.”
No better example exists than in the county’s welfare department, or as the county likes to call it the Department of Human Services. Granted, that includes the health department, but it’s not a major fiscal component.
To see how it works, taxpayers can look at DHS’ “ten-year history,” which lists every change by year. For example, take a look at the list for the FY 2002 budget that begins on page 133 of the Manager’s proposed FY 2008 budget. For FY 2002, there are about 38 separate changes spread over three pages. To its credit, the department make some “efficiency” changes, e.g., eliminating several positions that had been funded through grants that were not renewed. However, those cuts or increased efficiencies are dwarfed by additions made “here, there, and everywhere.”
That example is repeated year-after-year. Sheesh! No wonder county spending grows faster than our personal income.