Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sunspots: Budget matters are too hard for the Sun

Perhaps the day will come when the Kitsap Sun can report (or editorialize) on government budget issues without making significant errors, but this wasn't the day.

The Kitsap Regional Library board of trustees is mulling over its options after voters rejected a large property tax increase to bring revenues into line with spending.

In today's edition, the Sun reported on the latest discussions -- with this as the lead paragraph:

With a looming budget shortfall of $2.1 million hanging over their heads, members of the Kitsap Regional Library board of trustees have already put in place some cost-saving measures they hope will get them through the remainder of 2007.

The "looming budget shortfall" would occur in 2008, if a property tax "lid lift" is not approved by voters later this year. As the agenda for the KRL trustees' study session on June 7 illustrates, this year is not the problem (except for the fact KRL is consuming its reserve funds to cover the deficit after increasing spending by about 30 percent since 2005).

There is no need to make spending cuts to "get them through the remainder of 2007." Their reserves will do that.

The problem is that KRL would arrive at 2008 with an unavoidable need to cut spending back nearly to the levels existing in 2005, unless a lid lift is approved to increase revenues by more than 30 percent.

Any cuts made now in projected spending for 2007 would simply leave a little more in their reserve funds to carry them into 2008.

Having avoided telling its readers what the rejected tax increase would have paid for, the Sun now says:

These cost-cutting measures are only a preview of what's to come for the system if an additional funding source isn't found before the 2008-09 fiscal year.

KRL budgets and financial statements are prepared for each calendar year, since roughly 95 percent of KRL revenue comes from the property tax -- which is levied on a calendar year basis.
There is no "2008-09 fiscal year."

And, unless some wealthy benefactors come along and make large donations, there is no "additional funding source" to be found.

If the property tax isn't increased by more than 30 percent, then KRL cannot continue to spend far more than its annual revenue.

The expansion plans which the Sun apparently knew about, but chose not to report before the election in May, have to be put on hold. Now, the Sun tells its readers:

The measure that was denied last month would have covered such costs for the expansion of three area libraries.

Knowing about projected expansions might have been helpful in explaining why KRL asked for a 70 percent increase in tax revenue, but the Sun didn't say anything about it until now.

These budget issues are apparently just too hard for the Sun to handle.

Reporting the "who, what, when, where, and how much" facts ought to be easy for people who want to report the news, so what's the problem?

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