2017-03-23 / Views

‘Cash cow’ running dry

The county cash cow is running out of milk.

That was the message — albeit, given in a more objective form — provided by county Treasurer John Gallagher III last week to county commissioners.

Gallagher oversees the county Delinquent Tax Revolving Fund (DTRF), which thrives during recessions when people can’t afford to pay property taxes and suffers a bit during good times when they pay on time.

The DTRF reimburses local governments for property taxes that are paid late or not paid at all, then recoups the funds with high interest and fees assessed to property owners — or takes over properties and sells them.

Despite its fluctuations, though, the DTRF has become a reliable funding source for a variety of county projects. Commissioners tapped into the fund in the fall to help pay for an estimated $1 million in repairs needed at the Law Enforcement Center, and dating back more than a decade ago pulled $3 million to help pay for the county government center.

The DTRF is also tapped every year to help pay down the county’s retirement debt.

We see Mr. Gallagher’s message as one part of a puzzle that points toward more stringent times for county government, which is looking at a number of new expenses and expensive projects. While a $3.3 million upgrade to the county 9-1-1 system tops the list, more than $1 million was due to repair the Law Enforcement Center, and before that repairs were required on that 10-year-old county government center.

And then there is the important business of taking care of our citizens. The county Senior Services department expects to run an $80,000 deficit this year.

We get the feeling that some belt-tightening may be in order for county government in the months and years ahead.

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