Commission: If budget needs cuts, make them balanced

BROOKVILLE — Wednesday, the Jefferson County Commissioners — Paul Corbin, James McIntyre and Jeffrey Pisarcik — gave their opinions on President Obama’s proposed budget and the future of federal funding in the county.

While Brookville Borough Council Tuesday said the proposed budget calls for the elimination of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding — of which the county received more than $240,000 last year — Corbin and Bill Setree, of the Department of Development, said the reduction will likely be in the neighborhood of 10 percent.

The commissioners mentioned other major cuts were proposed, however, including subsidies needed by regional airports — such as DuBois Regional Airport — Community Action, Head Start and Children & Youth Services.

Despite the funding cuts, the budget still calls for more than $400 billion in deficit spending, and U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson said Monday that spending actually increases in Obama’s proposed budget.

“We’ve all have to come to the realization that all of us are going to have to get used to less services and less funding,” Pisarcik said. “I just hope that when the funding is eliminated, so are the mandates that came with that funding. They can’t just press it down the line.”

Pisarcik was referencing unfunded mandates, which is when the federal or state government requires the county to offer a service without providing any funding to fulfill that requirement.

“It’s tough for the county as is,” Corbin said. “When state and federal money is reduced, the mandates that came with that funding should be.”

The commissioners acknowledged that spending cuts must be made because of the nation’s financial situation, with Corbin saying the deficit “didn’t happen overnight, and it won’t go away overnight.”

Still, the areas where cuts are proposed is a point of contention for the commissioners.

“You look at some of the obvious places to cut. There is a tremendous amount of wasteful spending by the state and federal governments that never gets addressed,” McIntyre said. “The whole burden shouldn’t be put on the county to take care of debt at higher levels.”

Corbin said he thought cuts in federal funding should be made across the board and not in isolated areas, citing the county’s plan to overcome debt as an example. When Corbin, McIntyre and Pisarcik were elected in 2003, the county had an annual deficit of more than $200,000, and Corbin said he and his fellow commissioners eliminated that.

“We didn’t single out an individual department,” Corbin said. “The hurt was spread evenly. If they are going to make these cuts, they should continue to fund some of their pet projects.”

“These cuts need to be balanced,” McIntyre said. “We recognize that there needs to be cuts, but they have to be balanced.”

Corbin said there are problems with the overall system of funding. For instance, he said county departments that receive federal funding, such as Children & Youth Services, are in some ways punished for attempting to save money.

“It’s just a convoluted system,” he said. “You would think that everybody would want an efficient system, but that doesn’t seem to be the logic.”

Corbin also said the federal tax system has flaws, saying, “There is a disproportional number of people that do not pay any taxes to the federal government. We either need a federal sales tax or a flat tax so that everybody is paying a part of this.”