Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

February 1, 2013

Wyman: If Howard County government were a stock

By business principles, it’d rate ‘buy’

When looking to invest in a company, it is important to monitor and measure various aspects of finances and operations in order to determine the success the business is having. Profitability, debt and quality of service are often key measurements. Not too often do these principles and measurements get applied to government.

Why not? Let’s have some fun and apply these business measurements to your current Howard County government.

Let’s take a look at how county government ended 2012. Here are the facts: Through sound fiscal management of the last several years, county government ended the year with a $9 million surplus. We have paid off all county debt during that same time, making us one of the rare local units of government in the state that is debt free! We have grown our rainy day fund from zero to a healthy balance of $1.2 million.

In 2012 we also gave back $860,000 of tax money directly to the property owners of Howard County. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true — your county government actually gave money back to taxpayers. It is a simple belief we have — it’s your money, not ours!

From a service standpoint we can share that we continually get high marks. The sheriff department received another outstanding jail report from the state, and the newly merged dispatch spent under budget, continuing to save taxpayers of Howard County more than $700,000 per year while providing the same high level of service.

The jail renovation-expansion is almost complete and was undertaken without incurring any new taxes or new debt. Our county roads continue to be hailed as some of the best in the state, our courts oversee 15,000 cases a year, tax collections and assessments are on time, our properties are excellently maintained, and we have begun taking on 20 years’ worth of neglected infrastructure in county drains and watersheds.

We have made significant economic development investments, many in partnership with the City of Kokomo. Projects like Darrough Chapel, trails, Kitty Run and the YMCA, to name a few. When looking at all partnerships that have been accomplished with the city, it is not surprising we received a joint economic development award in 2012 with the City of Kokomo from the state Main Street Association.

Looking at the successes that your city and county governments are having, you would be hard pressed to find any other county where the financial picture of the major units of government are any stronger.

You should know your county employees have contributed greatly to our success. Time and time again during these difficult economic times they have watched the taxpayer dollars closely and have spent your money wisely. Their efforts have enabled us to be in a strong financial position today. I know they will continue to help us manage the new challenges in the coming years. Like business, we will continue to make necessary improvements and listen to our customers.

I love how local government is still so connected to the people. I think that level of closeness is what helps us stay focused and achieve these types of results. It keeps us grounded on sound fiscal principles with a true understanding of the taxpayers’ desires — keep spending down, pay off debt, maintain low tax rates and build surplus for upcoming challenging financial situations.

I am proud to serve with my fellow county officials and very proud of the overall success of our employees. Your local county government is financially sound! Stock rating: BUY!

Paul Wyman is a Howard County commissioner. Contact him at pwyman8@aol.com.

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