Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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February 8, 2009

Sullivan’s Salvos 2/10/09

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope each of you will take the time to reach out to another human being this weekend… whether it is the love of your life, a new crush, or just a platonic acquaintance. Let’s spread some love!

I know folks are anxious to hear about the FY10 County budget. Here is what I know so far:

The budget the Supervisors are bringing to the public hearing is for approximately $84,100,000 dollars. The total budget is $125,000 less than last year, which translates to an overall decrease of -.001%.

This is inclusive; the Joint Emergency Communications Center and Conservation Bond initiative are included. Obviously, some departments got a bit more funding than the current year, others got a bit less. Most stayed very close to where they were a year ago. All 500-plus County employees are getting raises of 3%.

This budget gets submitted to the State, then published in the local papers. After the public hearing, the budget can be lowered, but not increased. So what I describe is really a final draft.

I am pretty happy with the way this budget turned out. I think it responsibly meets the needs of the citizens of Johnson County without a huge tax increase.

I wrote the following in the January 13 edition of Salvos: “In short, big cuts are not called for at this time. The Board is working very hard to minimize any tax increases… if I get my way, tax bills are going to stay pretty close to the same as last year. I think we can do that without hurting the people of Johnson County.”

I think that has come to pass. I am proud of the budgetary work of the Board of Supervisors this year. If you have questions, comments, or concerns on the budget or any other matter, just give me a shout.

Johnson County resident Janelle Rettig serves on the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commission. At her regular meeting last week, they had a presentation on State Air Plan & Non-Attainment.

You might have heard in the media last month that Muscatine and Scott County are out of attainment. You might be surprised to hear that on Fine Particle Monitoring for 2005-2007, Iowa City ranked next in concentration. In other words our Ambient Air Quality is almost as bad.

I appreciate Janelle bringing this to my attention. I think we need to do something about this. This hits close to home - literally, as the air quality gauge sits atop Hoover Elementary in Iowa City – my son’s school, one block from my house!

I have asked the Board’s Executive Assistant to look into getting a local presentation of this data. I know our local Board of Health is also interested in this topic. If my colleagues agree and we get something scheduled, I’ll let you know.

Meanwhile, thanks once again to Janelle for her outstanding work! We are lucky to have her on the DNR Commission.

There have been plenty of examples of government waste over the years. Unfortunately, these examples get all the press, while programs that serve people well are largely ignored. The right wing propaganda of the past 30 years has become well ingrained, and we need to reeducate the public as to the many good things governments do.

People who claim “Governments just need to quit spending,” just do not get it. When the government cuts back spending, poor children go without school lunch. Senior citizens go without glasses. There is no space in the domestic violence shelter. Working families go without insurance. People with disabilities sit idly. Scientific research dries up. Air and water get dirtier. Streets become more dangerous. Class sizes increase. Preventative services get cut.

This goes on for a few years, until the public gets fed up. Then spending increases to address some of these needs. Then there is an outcry over spending, and things are cut once again. It is a vicious circle.

Governmental cuts are rarely at the expense of the military. Cuts in governmental spending rarely have big effects on the wealthy. When governments cut back, the poor and middle class are hurt the most.

Obviously, we should never accept governmental waste. We should always be vigilant about the ways in which our tax dollars are used. At the same time, blanket calls for the government to spend less are often poorly disguised attacks on the poor and middle class.

Governments must not only look out for the most vocal taxpayers, but also for the silent masses who truly struggle to get through each day.

Governments CAN always cut back… the questions are SHOULD they cut back, and if so, HOW? We need healthy discussions on the needs of our citizens rather than mindless cries for less governmental spending. As President Obama has pointed out, we need to fund programs that work well, and end programs that do not. Notice the piece about fund those that work well!

It is time once again for one of my rants on grammar. This week, the topic is the word “incentive”. (Unfortunately, we get to hear about incentives all too often.)

The problem is not the word incentive, it is the attempt to create a verb from the noun. We do not “incent” developers. We “incentivize” developers.

That said, if local leaders want to go ahead and quit using the word altogether, I am OK with that!

DID YOU KNOW? Johnson County’s free tax help program (You Earned It, Now Claim It!) helped complete over 660 returns in Johnson County in 2008 – a 100% increase from 2007.

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website-

"Sullivan’s Salvos" is sent once per week to any interested party. It will give a brief update on issues of interest to Johnson County residents.

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As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you!



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