The Cost of Fiscal Sensibility

Local Activists Host GOP Commissioners at a Tea Party for the County Manager

Subscribers to the Sanford Herald might conclude the Board of Commissioners’ action on December 6, 2010 – which granted a bonus and short-term housing allowance to the County Manager – was unjustified and very unpopular among the general public. 

Now, nearly six weeks after the fact, the outrage still has’t died down.  Staunch conservatives continue to press the matter and some have even cut ties with the three fiscal conservatives they supported for office in November– Shook, Parks, and Womack.

I am not so presumptious as to believe this post will justify the act in question, at least not from the perspective of tea party types.  But, after ruminating on the facts for six weeks and after discussing the matter at length with four of the commissioners, I would like to offer some evidence that might support the board’s action from the perspective of most citizens.

First, there is the issue of County Manager’s personal financial situation.  Many of us have been in the situation where our income was inadequate to cover our bills, forcing us to  seek a raise, look around for a better paying job, or to reduce our financial obligations (if possible).    Few of us would view Mr. Crumpton’s personal finances a matter of concern to the taxpayers of the county; after all, he is paid a very nice salary, one of the top salaries among Lee County professionals.  But all of us should be concerned that our County Manager might not be able to accomplish the full range of his duties if his attention was distracted away from pressing budget, tax, and managerial issues.  That appears to have been part of the dilemma the commissioners were faced with- that Mr. Crumpton’s unsold vacant house in Scotland County was creating a serious financial strain for his family, that trying to get this house sold was becoming a distraction for him, and that his predicament might compel him to start looking for a better paying County Manager’s job elsewhere in the state.  (Also noteworthy is the fact Mr. Crumpton is well-networked and popular around the state, stemming from his prior work as the NCACC Marketing Director.)

Next is the three year track record of Mr. Crumpton in Lee County.  By all accounts, he has been an outstanding County Manager.  He expertly managed the county through a very difficult two-year business recession without raising taxes or eliminating important county positions.  He has managed to cut spending by $2-1/2 million the past two years while still keeping the staff motivated to high levels of service.  The county even managed to generate several hundred thousand dollars for the reserve accounts this past fiscal year- a feat no one thought was possible. 

A third factor on the minds of the commissioners was the looming revenue shortfall (from federal and state sources) now threatening Lee County for the 2011-2012 budget year.  Commissioners are concerned they may have to find as much as $3 million in spending cuts to offset reduced governmental transfers to the county.  Such large cuts would be virtually impossible to absorb without harming the county, absent the wisdom and expertise of a seasoned county manager and the full cooperation of his department heads.  Imagine how difficult that feat would be if Mr. Crumpton sought and accepted a better paying job in a larger county this year, leaving us with the budget debacle and all the while needing to find a new (affordable) County Manager who has little working knowledge of Lee County and its governmental affairs.  Anyone who has ever run a business knows that is the kind of situation you avoid at all costs.

The Lee County Board of Commissioners is responsible to the citizens of the county for taking action that preserves our quality of life and protects us from harm, including financial harm.  Several of the commissioners voting to grant Mr. Crumpton the one-time bonus and six-month housing allowance truly believed the action to be a necessary investment, essential for them to successfully navigate this desperate budget year.  These same commissioners claim it was not an act of compassion or even an acknowledgement of deserved compensation.  Instead, the $14,800 was considered an insurance payment, intended to secure the county’s financial intersts through the 2011-2012 budget cycle. 

The budget cycle has begun and Mr. Crumpton is still here, laser focused on his duties, and working collaboratively with the commissioners to find $3 million in cuts. 

Is there evidence of fiscal sensibility in the board’s actions?  Yes.  During the month of December, the county netted more than $550 thousand in unforecast tax revenues from a large national company because of Mr. Crumpton’s savvy as a County Manager.   He had ordered an audit of that company’s local property listing when the company claimed it was being billed for more property than it had listed.  Mr. Crumpton didn’t have to order the audit, but he did.  And it saved Lee County taxpayers more than $550 thousand.  That’s what I call a return on investment!

In the end, commissioners will be held accountable for their actions.   Let’s be sure to judge those actions over time, and in full consideration of their work, rather than by one or two isolated and seemingly inappropriate votes.

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About Alexander Hamilton

First Secretary of the Treasury, Founding Father, and a leading federalist. I wrote most of the federalist papers, collaborating with John Jay and James Madison. Some in the Republican Party consider me the best ever Secretary of the Treasury. I was an original proponent for a strong central bank to help protect the financial security of our nation.
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12 Responses to The Cost of Fiscal Sensibility

  1. Patrick Henry says:

    Good grief. Who else will blog trying to justify the actions? There’s nothing any of us can do. Mr. Crumpton is hired, not elected. I have nothing against him.

    However, might I say the day I go to my employer and tell him I will only do about 80% of my job unless I get more money because I have a second house that won’t sell or I need a bonus is the day I’ll be fired. Because I am replaceable just like everyone else is in his job. There is always someone who is waiting to be hired that will do the job better, more efficiently, and at a lesser wage. That’s just the way it is. And I have no one to blame but myself if I deal carelessly in financial transactions, etc, etc.

    When an employee is hired, he/she is entering a contract to do the JOB they were hired to do. If the county manager position comes with milestones to meet to get bonuses or stipends, that is an entirely different situation. If that’s the case here, somebody needs to say it.

    Let’s give a standing O to the commissioners. They ran a good campaign with our help no doubt. Now stop whining that we don’t agree with every action you’re taking. Just because we’re on the right doesn’t mean we need to sit down and shut up. Sorry. That isn’t about to happen.

    PH

  2. My Federalist friend Alexander…

    Thank you for this post. It is reassuring to know at least a few of us have an open mind and a balanced perspective on these matters. Of course, there will always be those who disagree and simply cannot let it go…no matter how judgmental they come across. To them, every vote or opinion they disagree with becomes an egregious act that demands public outcry and condemnation. Is it any wonder they are then marginalized and labeled as being extreme or radical?

    Like you, I believe the County Manager will be important to the upcoming budget process and I pray he will help us save the millions necessary for a balanced budget despite declining revenues.

    Publius

  3. Patrick Henry says:

    Mr. Madison,

    It is totally unfair for you to assume that any action we disagree about will become overblown. That is a description of the left. They are masters of the game.

    Do you believe that there was unanimous agreement when the Constitution was being formed? Of course not. Do you believe that Washington’s own men were not in disarray and plotting his demise when they were cold, hungry and homesick? Of course not.

    Please refrain from comparing those of us who are a bit disappointed in the the first month to disgruntled cronic complainers! Our job is to keep our elected officials on their toes. We sat down once before and almost lost our country. This patriot refuses to be dormant anymore. I failed my countrymen once. I will always live with pain. But not anymore.

    I do hope you come to understand my reasoning. You are not required to like it, however.

    Cheers to the republic!

    PH

  4. Patrick;

    I find it interesting (and even a little bit predictable) that Mr Hamilton and I- both Federalists and stalwart advocates of the U.S. Constitution -are in agreement on this matter about expensing precious tax dollars, while you (a leading Antifederalist) disagree with Lee County BOC’s action as you did in leading Virginia’s opposition to the U.S. Constitution in 1787-88. I pray that, in the future, we find ourselves more in agreement than in disagreement.

    Publius

  5. Patrick Henry says:

    That is exactly why you should not judge us as cronic naysayers!

    Quite interesting indeed!

    PH

  6. 1. Frankly I find this entire Federalist – Antifederalist stuff fairly confusing. Patrick was Antifederalist early on but was elected to the VA house as a Federalist later in life. James there is no doubt that you were a Federalist early on, but in ’91 you broke with Alexander Hamilton and you and Thomas J. formed the Republican Party to oppose the Federalists. Both of you changed your party labels if not your basic principles. James many historians hold that the War of 1812 forced you revise many of your opinions. People do change as they age. As Publius and Cato we had great debates in the newspapers of the time, but by ’09 when you were elected President and I served as your Vice President we both had mellowed enough to get along. Of course I was a carryover as I had also served under Jefferson and I was put up against you in the ’08 election and lost to you for President.
    2. As for the Co. Manger’s bonus I was outraged when I first heard about it, but the more I looked at it, it appeared to be a wise move by the BOC. I don’t quite get the point of Patrick’s rave in the first comment on this post. If what he states is true and “There is always someone who is waiting to be hired that will do the job better, more efficiently, and at a lesser wage.” It would appear that we would see much more turnover in top jobs. I do agree that it is our job to let politicians know how we feel about their actions, however.

    anti

  7. George;

    True. Mr. Hamilton and I parted company on the emerging shape and form of the federal government, particularly during the first Congress. I could see our infant republic taking form much like the European powers, with the executive branch possessing too much power (as it does today). I was opposed to a large and powerful central government or authority, and I believe my opposition was justified, evidence the growth and ubiquity of our central government throughout the 20th and 21st Centuries. I originally opposed the Bill of Rights as being redundant with the body of the U.S. Constitution, but later saw the necessity for them and sided with my friend Mr. Henry in getting these important amendments passed to protect our people.

    I respect those who change their opinions after contemplating all sides to the argument on matters of import. I was renown for that in the early years of this country, as were Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Adams, and yes, even Mr. Henry. All of us were ‘guilty’ of altering our stance on issues and disagreeing with each other when we believed we were defending the country’s best interests. I pray our Lee County brethren will honor our respective rights to disagree, and then move forward united in the accord to do what is best for our citizens and righteous in the name of our Lord.

    Publius

  8. Patrick Henry says:

    George,

    It is true there is always someone who can do our jobs better and more efficiently. That’s true for private and public sectors. If we don’t consider that, we are guilty of elitism. Let’s take politics for example. If our newly elected officials were not under the assumption they could do the job better than the old regime, they would have never had the confidence of running.

    It’s called competition and it makes us better.

    I seriously wonder what would be said if Hayes and company were still in charge. The one thing you will notice is that I will hold the Repubs feet to the fire just as much as the liberals. I can tell you they don’t care too much for that.

    Oh well….Happy new year! Here’s to many more friendly disagreements!

    PH

  9. Patrick Henry says:

    I should clarify: I wonder what would be said if Hayes and company had given out the bonus and stipend.

    But it doesn’t matter. That is unless a property tax increase happens. Then this will be brought back up. Trust me on that.

    PH

  10. Patrick Henry says:

    Right on, my friend!

  11. Goose says:

    Funny I don’t see any tar or feathers on those misguided citizens who voted to authorize the ¼ cent sales tax rate increase, and I think all but one on the BOC actually voted to impose the tax increase. I molt every year so I could provide a limited amount of feathers if you give me some advance notice. BTW when are you peopling going to break the habit of throwing all your unwanted stuff into the water? It took a whole season to get those tea stains out of my feathers! H O N K

  12. Patrick Henry says:

    Goose – Tar and feathering began Nov 2. We have a couple of more to throw out. Some may say Kelly not defending his seat is to be ignored. I beg to differ. He knew his outlandish “do this or die” guarantee would come back to haunt him. I do wish he had been there for us to see his face when Mr. Womack beat him. Basically, that’s what Jim did. He beat Kelly. Butch was a joke. A little short joke. Ahhhh sorry had to say that!!

    PH

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