---- — First, let me say it has been an honor to serve you as a Howard County commis-sioner this past year. Serving as one of your county executives, my No. 1 focus has been managing taxpayer money in a fiscally responsible way.
I want to share with you some of the successes we have been having in county government, as a result of many hard-working folks:
• We are debt-free. As a Republican, this is probably one of the things I am most proud of.
• We now have an approximate $9 million surplus.
• We built our “rainy day” fund from zero to $2 million.
• The merged city-county dispatch saves county taxpayers $700,000 per year.
• All $860,000 in GM back taxes collected were returned directly to the taxpayers.
• Our county tax rate is 18 percent below our five closest county peers.
• We restructured our workman’s compensation insurance for an opportunity to save up to $100,000 in 2014.
• We have reduced spending in many areas.
• We have instituted an employee wellness program that will reduce future insurance costs.
• We approved the new mass notification system for community emergencies to begin in 2014.
• We completed renovations and increased capacity at the jail, with no tax increase.
• We raised in excess of $250,000 with a commissioners’ property tax sale.
The following are important economic development projects we worked hard for:
• The Darrough Chapel sewer project is now complete.
• Twenty-three businesses located in downtown Kokomo as a result of downtown business grants.
• We assisted in the Russiaville Community Center and sewer project.
• We funded a grant for the Bona Vista Job Program for individuals with disabilities.
• We continued our financial support of the county 4-H program.
• We supported the YMCA building project.
• We completed the Kitty Run Drain project and other major drain and tile work.
• We supported the Nickel Plate Trail system extension to Kokomo.
• We assisted in the FedEx expansion and road project near the new U.S. 31 expressway.
• We traveled to China with Mayor Greg Goodnight and other community leaders to help secure a long-term relationship with our sister city, Dongyang.
• We created a public-private partnership for our community to have a farmers’ market.
• We supported the Jackson Street Commons project for homeless veterans.
We believe these projects will have a long-term, positive impact on Howard County.
As you can see, your county government is in a strong financial position. Though government is not a business, applying sound business principles to government has been effective for us.
As an officeholder and local business owner, I thank you for your support of our county government. Our shared common-sense principles that government does not have to have debt and can keep spending in check are a reality in Howard County. It seems our conservative approach is often criticized by the press, however, I remain steadfast that this approach is the right one for our community.
Working together, we can show how fiscally responsible government works for the people and not the other way around. Your feedback is always welcome. I wish each of you a happy and prosperous new year!
Paul Wyman is a Howard County commissioner. Contact him at Pwyman8@aol.com.