Fee hikes not the real answer

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Our Opinion

By Dave Bell

It’s no secret that Fayette County is not in a strong position financially.
For the past several years, the county board has regularly dipped into its capital improvement fund just to keep county offices functioning and to meet payroll. We’ve expressed our concern about that practice – saying that the fund (which came from the sale of the county’s mineral rights) was intended to be used to repair or replace county buildings. Yet the capital improvement fund continues to shrink.
At its meeting Tuesday, the county board heard some suggestions that may help relieve some of the pressure on that capital fund by raising fees for other functions performed at the jail and by county offices. That appears to be a good place to start, though it doesn’t appear that those fee increases will bring in significant funds. Nevertheless, we need to determine if the county is charging enough for the services it provides.
Yet there’s a fly in the ointment. Board Chairman Steve Knebel indicated that a study of the fees charged by the county could itself come with a hefty price tag – as much as $30,000 for an outside firm to see how we stack up with surrounding counties. Before we spend that kind of money, we must make sure it will provide information that county board members couldn't gather themselves.
Every month, the county makes significant expenditures in the areas of payroll and benefits for county employees. That, it seems, can’t be ignored as the county seeks ways to cut costs – just like every business in the county has had to do.