Lots to comment on
February 10, 2010 - First off, let me apologize for not writing a column for the last two weeks. I've been extremely busy working on the rest of the newspaper and our upcoming Progress 2010 edition.
I realized the other day that it's terribly selfish of me not to write a column because when I don't express my lively opinions, the local leadership has nothing to complain about and no one to blame everything on when they get together for their hand-holding sessions.
I've been slacking in my role as the local boogeyman and scapegoat for our government officials. For that, I sincerely apologize.
Now, on to more pressing issues . . .
I'd like to applaud state Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) for proposing that every single government employee and elected official in this state take a 5 percent pay cut and begin paying 15 or 20 percent of their health insurance premiums.
Given the state's financial crisis and the fact so many people are without jobs or even homes, I think it's reasonable to ask all of our public servants to make some sacrifices.
And no, I do not consider taking a smaller pay raise or no raise at all to be a sacrifice. To characterize it a sacrifice is an insult to struggling taxpayers everywhere.
I realize some have already made actual sacrifices like Oakland County employees and officials taking a 2.5 percent pay reduction or Addison Township employees paying 13 percent of their health insurance. But unfortunately, these examples are exceptions and not the rule.
Bishop's proposals – if they make it to the ballot and are approved by state voters – will make it the rule. Government needs to make cuts at all levels and I'd rather see pay cuts and increased insurance contributions for public servants than service reductions or worse, tax hikes for you and me.
According to the figures provided to me by our local entities, Bishop's proposals would save Oxford and Addison a combined $2.2 million to $2.5 million annually. Sounds good to me.
I'd also like to applaud Oxford Community Schools for looking into the potential privatization of its custodial and transportation services. It's no secret that I have always been a staunch proponent of privatization whenever it's feasible.
Government bodies are here to provide basic services, not keep folks employed with the best wages and benefits the taxpayers' money can buy.
If a government can use a private contractor to provide the same level of services in a more cost-effective manner, then it should vigorously pursue that avenue. There's nothing wrong with exploring these options especially in these dire economic times.
But just as C.J. giveth, he must also taketh away.
I am totally opposed to the school district purchasing the historic Meriam building (10 N. Washington St.) in downtown Oxford and using it to house the central offices.
There's absolutely no valid reason for the district to acquire and occupy a prime piece of downtown real estate along M-24. That malarkey about using it to help "market" the school district just doesn't wash with me. I don't for a second believe somebody speeding along M-24 is going to send their kids to Oxford because the central office is on main street.
I'd rather see the Meriam building stay vacant until a good tenant (or tenants) comes along or until another private party can buy it, thus removing the taxable value cap and allowing additional revenue to gush forth to our local governments.
At least under its current private ownership, the Meriam building continues to generate some local tax revenues, albeit not much thanks to an assessing screw-up years ago.
But if the schools purchase it, that property comes off the tax rolls. In this era of declining property values and shrinking government revenues, do we really need less property to tax?
Don't mind me, I guess I'm just being a Negative Nelly again. I should really learn to surrender my Free Will and go with the ultra-positive flow. It's working for so many others.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.