Lee county commissioners have been very generous in funding their own offices and staffs, despite calls for others in county government to make sharp cutbacks.
"I would say that is absolutely hypocritical," said Lee Co. homeowner Donna Moore. "You have to begin at home, cut your own spending before asking others to do the cutting."
WINK News looked at budgets, going back 12 years. They show, a mostly continual increase in funding for the commissioners offices and functions. Their current budget, for example, amounts to 1-million, 203-thousand dollars. 10 years ago, it was 940-thousand. And in 2004, it was just over one-million. What's more, commissioners have flirted with the idea of actually increasing their budget slightly for next year -- boosting it to 1-million, 205-thousand.
"The fact is, the commissioners have not set the kind of example on budgeting, that collectively we should have shown," said Commsr. Frank Mann. "My office is the lowest of the 5, and I believe we can all cut more. We have to. I don't want to ask county employees to take a hit that I myself am not willing to take."
Each commissioner makes 84-thousand dollars a year, plus benefits. The commissioners each have one assistant, who makes 64-thousandd a year, plus benefits. In addition, commissioners have funding for travel, phones, subscriptions, and miscellaneous items.
Commissioners probably will have to reduce their current budget a bit before next year. Their assistants probably will join 2000 other county employees in taking 10-days of furlough, plus they will pay more for health insurance. Those items will amount to a 4-percent cut.
Mann says travel is another item that should by and large be cut. Commission Chairwoman Tammy Hall has the biggest budget for travel this year, just over 10-thousand dollars. She has spent 53-hundred of that 10-thousand. Hall told WINK News that she travels only when necessary, to meet with legislators to conduct county business out of town. She says her office has cut out subscriptions, and tries to save money wherever it can. "We are looking for the right size of county government. We are committed to that task, and we will do what we must, to get to that level," Hall told WINK News.
"We have to do more. We may have to ask employees to take even deeper cuts, and we have to lead by example," said Commissioner Frank Mann.