Soaring Not Just Getting Beyond the 2003 County Budget
by
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
August 14, 2003

In the five years I have served as your Commissioner, I am most mindful of certain disturbingly recurrent phenomena: ever escalating property valuations (property taxes) that are a regular assault on a cornerstone of American life: the homestead, the continuing habits among many of us (including me) that create increasing health care costs and decisions that keep us in a seemingly unending upward spiral of government expenses.

It is said that the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  This brings me to an article I read by Scott Burns, nationally syndicated business columnist.  He said he had recently read a book entitled "Natural Capitalism" and that if his readers knew any public official that had not read this book that they should not vote for him or her in the next election.  Well, I had not read this book so out of respect for Scott Burns and my own sense of pride as an elected official, I fairly quickly obtained a copy of the book and set out to read it.

What this has to do with our County budget is everything.  It does not offer any quick and easy solutions.  Those are far and few between.  It did however, offer significant and critical observations and studies that document much greater resource productivity.  It captured my attention because the greater the productivity of our county revenue, the less tax revenue should be needed. 

Natural Capitalism discussed the idea that the economy is shifting from an emphasis on human productivity to a radical increase in resource productivity.  The authors assembled fifty case studies of at least quadrupled resource productivity to detail how, across whole economies, people could live twice as well but use half as much material and energy.  

They foretell an emerging resource productivity revolution.

You have read about this when I have written on energy and natural resources like recycled goods and will continue to hear from me on these and other topics that effect the long-term well-being of our County. 

For this year however, it appears as though our approach to solving the $14 million shortfall for the next fiscal year, October 1, 2003 through September 30, 2004, will be to:

  1. Borrow internally,
  2. Keep the tax rate the same as it is now, and
  3. Realize a 5% savings from each department or office in the County.

One of the first things we really need to do is to get out of the rental business.  We currently pay $1.7 million annually for renting of buildings.  This is intolerable.  Hopefully we can address this in a successful bond issue soon. 

Integrating some of the thoughts on conservation, we will replace old energy guzzling equipment with newer and cheaper-running equipment and allow the savings realized to finance it.  According to a State Energy Conservation Office audit, we can save at least $691,400.00 annually over the next 5.7 years, with a lesser yet increasing amount before then.  Because this audit did not include smaller buildings that are collectively important, the annual savings can be more.

Hike up the tempo of a health campaign for Bexar County employees so that the recent escalations of health care premiums can either be abated or the rate of escalation slowed-down substantially.  Other steps we can take are to acquire renewable energy applications such as the solar-electric car as well as solar thermal (hot water) heating systems.  Add to this much higher efficiency air conditioners and this sun-baked part of God's green earth becomes more tolerable from a tax-savings viewpoint. 

Just so you might view our budget though from an historical perspective, see the box below.  Within a month we set the budget and the tax rate.  Implementing both short-term and long-term approaches to lighten the tax load is my goal.  Please let me hear from you on your thoughts.

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