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Grayson citizens deserve more

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Andrew B. Ayers is a retired businessman and Grayson County resident

GUEST EDITORIAL

Hard times call for tough and difficult decisions. Unfortunately, Grayson County officials seem unwilling or unable to act in a prudent and sensible manner.
Despite citizens turning out at every public hearing and meeting to express concern over governmental choices, tax increases and property assessments, the public outcries have repeatedly fallen on deaf ears.
A citizens’ meeting in November was attended by more than 300 people, as the grassroots opposition continues to swell against decisions and practices.
Some have vowed to vote out current supervisors as re-elections come up, and this is a long-term strategy that needs to be followed if members continue to ignore constituents. This alone will not address the immediate needs related to poor fiscal management.
Unlike the county, citizens cannot arbitrarily set rates and increases in Social Security or paychecks. Our only alternative is to manage spending.
There is an arrogance of governance that citizens will no longer tolerate when a county replaces a long-standing administrator position with a new administrator, plus an assistant administrator and additional administrative assistants to run a county with a shrinking industrial base and less demands on government than ever before.
There is greater arrogance when trash fees are assessed, warrants in debt issued and liens are threatened — when better alternatives and means of communication are available.
Look at neighboring Carroll County for a lesson in proper management. There is much to be learned in how Carroll handles school budget requests, rainy day funds and other aspects of government.
Where to begin? Look at the number of Grayson employees now versus more prosperous times.
What positions are essential and justifiable with work demands?
What duties can be combined?
What nonessential spending such as travel and conferences remains in the budget?
Are there really 54 county vehicles tagged, insured and on the road? How many are essential?
Implement the categorized approval of school budget funding that Carroll has adopted. Insist that the school board complete the same rigorous staffing and expense review that the county should undertake. Eliminate nonessential administrative overhead, travel and construction.
Make job creation and business recruitment the one priority that is funded and aggressively pursued in order to broaden the tax base and reduce the burden on citizens.
Grayson must ensure that the recent tax assessment and rate increases were equitably applied.
In a recent newspaper article, supervisors chairman Bartlett said he truly cared about comments being made and situations people were in. He may really care but … as chairman, he must lead.
When County Administrator Sweet attended the recent citizens meeting he remarked that Grayson had no choice in implementing tax increases, given that the county is broke and could not borrow more.
The question that never gets answered is what “right sizing” has occurred with county personnel and expenses related to changes, including the closing  of more than five major employers, declining construction, etc.
Citizens cannot shoulder the full tax burden and county officials must make difficult choices and sacrifices which we have been asked to bear.
I have seen signs of hope, with the recent announcement of new jobs coming to the area and the increased tax waiver for fixed income, disabled and elderly residents.
But only a week later I opened the paper to see the county has renovated the board room with “advanced technology,” which included adding windows, carpet and wall covering, two 52-inch LCD screens, video camera and writable walls. At what cost was this done and is now the time for such an extravagant undertaking, unrelated to managing expenses and cutting cost in county budgets?
I would call for resignations of both the school board and county supervisors unless they will operate the county like a business, with efficiency and sensibility.
The two-tier level of the county administrator’s office should be changed, with Assistant Administrator Mitch Smith appointed acting administrator, and Administrator Sweet realizing that he has become part of the problem and step down.
This will not blow over and citizens are not going away without a fight. Every action will be pursued to ensure that elected officials govern by principles entrusted to them, or we will replace them with people willing to bring fresh vision, transparency and prudence to the operation of our county government.