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Not just business as usual

Posted: March 6, 2014 2:36 p.m.
Updated: March 7, 2014 5:00 a.m.

We often hear politicians and government officials say that running a government, at any level, is the same as running a business. There obviously is some truth in that. Governments have expenses for personnel, equipment and supplies. They receive funds from their clients (taxpayers) to pay for the services the citizens hopefully receive. Government officials have to budget that money and decide how and where to allocate it to be used.

All in all, that’s a pretty tall order. There is so much that needs to be done. Let’s focus in on Kershaw County Council. Its budgeting season is coming up soon and, every year, members are given the task of taking care of safety and security through the sheriff’s office and the court system, for education through funds earmarked for the school district, for roads and other infrastructure through the public works department -- the list goes on and on. That’s a lot of slices of the pie to divvy up and it’s very close to impossible to please everyone when it comes to the county budget. Residents and councilmen alike have their favorite projects and departments and would like to see more funding for them.

The trick then is to find a reasonable balance when budgeting the county funds. But “reasonable” is such an objective term, isn’t it? When you give extra funds to any department, you have to take some from another and someone is going to resent it.

Yes, government is a business, in a way. But in another, very big way, it’s not. Government is not a factory that manufactures a product. If an industry makes a shoddy, overpriced product that people don’t want to buy, they have to either rethink their business strategy or close the doors. If, on the other hand, an industry makes a popular product and sells it at a fair price, they prosper, expand, make more of what they make and prosper even more. Success breeds success, they say.

County council and other governing bodies have the power to increase taxes to meet the expenses of providing for the citizenry, but I dare say all are very reluctant to do so. None want to be known as the person who raised taxes, no matter how necessary that increase may be. When tax increases are inevitable, councils prefer to raise them slightly, then slightly again later, rather than doing a massive tax hike all at once. I believe members honestly don’t want to hurt taxpayers … or voters.

We all have to pay taxes and fees to the government. Unlike with a business, we can’t refuse to do business with them. You know what’s been said about “death and taxes;” we really can’t run from either. They are facts of life that are here to stay.

But let’s support our county and city councils when it comes to budgeting our money. Yes, it’s our money and we should think of it that way. We elect our councilmen to represent us and our best interests. We may have differing opinions about what those interests are and how they should be financed, but let’s trust our council members to do the right thing. If they don’t, there’s an election coming up.   

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