— There is more than enough work to be done in moving our county forward into the 21st century. Many citizens voted for change and that is what I have always planned to do. As many of you already know that change is rarely easy and most often difficult.
There are many bright spots on our horizon. Businesses are taking a closer look; and with many of the recent technology changes this will enable us to consolidate further, saving many more tax dollars.
I have heard many say 5th class county. Technically we are a 6th class county. We were kept at the 5th class designation by our state representatives and should we not reverse the tide and bring people here we will be designated a 6th class county.
Is it fair to raise taxes on our residents? Many of our residents cannot afford their medicine or heat.
Is it fair to eliminate positions? Many lost their jobs through no wrong doing of their own.
Is it fair to ask senior citizens to now travel many miles to the nearest action center? I didn't think so, and thankfully we were able to let the other commissioners know our thoughts, and we were able to keep one of the three open. What most don't know is that there were other action centers proposed to be closed.
Is it fair to now ask our police officers to use their 3-4 hours of paid overtime to now transfer their inmates? This policy is the norm throughout the nation. This perk was done by past Commissioners to buy votes from our local law enforcement.
Is it fair to ask other elected officials and department heads to do more?
with less? Absolutely! Why? Because each and every one of you have had to do more with less, due to flat salaries in the private sector over the last 13 years and increasing costs and taxes. Yet the experts say there is no inflation. This was another ruse by elected officials to keep social security solvent. After all what do our retirees spend the majority of their income on? Food and energy? Then why else exclude the "volatile food and energy" from the consumer price index and refuse to give our seniors the cost of living adjustment they desperately need.
With a median household income of slightly over $37,000 why should your elected officials earn over 2 times that amount with benefits? They should not.
Each of these cost cutting measures and tax increases have severe detrimental impacts on our residents, employees and elected officials lives.
With that said it is hypocritical of us as elected officials to continue on with full salary and benefits as well as a pension. Some of these pensions, due to the bloated salaries, after a few terms many elected officials are walking away with exorbitant pensions, in some cases as high as $3,000-$4,000 per month.
How many private sector workers have a pension available to you?
Is it fair that in order to attract quality jobs, for us to rebate the county portion of real estate taxes to businesses that create jobs and then raise our residents’ taxes? With the passage of my Business Incentive Grant Program my intention was always to pay for it out of elected officials salaries and benefits, not out of your pocket.
If you are to review the job description of many of the row officers you would see that many of these positions are the equivalent to that of a head teller at your local bank. Do you realize that the average head teller earns $27,000 with no pension and must contribute over $8,000 toward their family health care plan with larger deductibles and co-pays than the elected officials and county employees enjoy.
I contend that if we truly wanted to see change that every elected official should earn less than the median income of their region and peg their compensation to the median income of their constituents. I assert we would see major economic expansion and a real rise in the middle class wage.
Unlike what we have been witnessing over the past 20 years.
Is it fair that each commissioner has his/her own bathroom? I was raised in a loving home, family of 5 with only one bathroom.
I have asked our legal department many questions on what we can and cannot do. Unfortunately the state legislature has for lack of a better term "hand cuffed" boards across the State with only being able to grant a flat level salary throughout the term they are elected to serve.
Historically unfunded mandates come down from higher levels of government during slower economic growth
We must continue to work through these difficult financial times together and continue to always do what is right for our citizens. As we continue to see a decline in funding of unfunded mandates we must look for additional ways to provide the same and improved services with less.
Many still do not understand what technology enables us to accomplish. No longer must an elected official be "in the office". With the development of tablets, smart phones, conference calls, webinars, face time and Skype we can be on a conference call, email others, review emails, PowerPoint presentations and attachments and have just as meaningful discussions as if we were sitting at our desk.
You are and have been asked to do more with less. Why are your elected officials any different? Are your elected officials better or more qualified than the people they serve?
Respecter of persons is our loss and has played into this lie. "But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men, but humbled himself.
“But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first."
Stephen Bridy is an Independent Northumberland County Commissioner. This is an edited version of his My Turn. The full version appears at www.dailyitem.com.