Being a "wonk" this is one of my favorite times of the year, as school boards, city councils and county boards review and finalize their new budgets. I enjoy the line-by-line review of every expenditure as fiscally-responsible elected officials look to save taxpayers every dollar they can. That is why I was so dismayed with yesterday's budget debate involving the Winnebago County Board.
Supervisors took all of ten minutes to review the county Human Services department budget--which at about $43-MILLION dollars is the largest spending area. The only serious question came from a supervisor who wanted to know if a "Chronic Disease Prevention Specialist" is really necessary--since the county has a number of other "Specialists" already on-staff dealing with things like childhood immunization, communicable disease prevention, childhood learning, etc, etc, etc.
The rest of the discussion time was spent having several supervisors ask leading questions about their favorite human services program--like Music and Memory (which helps old people remember things by listening to music and singing) or free health clinics (which I thought we didn't need anymore because everyone is required by law to have health insurance and is guaranteed access to "affordable health care")
Later in the day, that same county board spent nearly an hour breaking down the 200-thousand dollars spent by Wittman Regional Airport on advertising and promotion. A group of supervisors took turns bashing the airport (an annual Budget Sessions tradition on the Winnebago County Board) and questioned every avenue the airport has tried to promote itself. As much as I appreciate getting out the fine-toothed comb on things, I had to wonder where was that same "attention to detail" on the $43-MILLION that was presented to them an hour ago--and was moved along with a shrug and a yawn?
Considering the average age of Winnebago County Board Supervisors, I guess the answer lies in their likely need for all of those Human Services programs before they ever fly out of the airport in Oshkosh.