Reading about the county budget discussions in the July 9, 2020 Highlands News-Sun left me with several thoughts.

First and foremost, I was left wondering if the county Budget Office might have a drinking problem. When, in the midst of an economic meltdown of historic proportions, the county Office of Management and Budget recommended “holding increases to 2%.”

Increases?!?

Are they aware that thousands of people in Highlands County have lost jobs? Lost income? And they are talking about recommending an increase?!? Wow.

I think it is far kinder to imagine some kind of drinking problem has swept through the OMB than to think they have lost their minds.

Commissioner Arlene Tuck gets it. She made it clear to County Administrator Randy Vosburg that the very unrealistic budget needs a lot more work. To his credit, Mr. Vosburg agreed.

What the commission needs to do in light of the economic catastrophe the people of Highlands County are dealing with is cut. And then cut some more. Not just keep the millage the same, but reduce it to the point where no one is paying a dime more than in the prior fiscal year.

In fact, the correct thing to do is cut until the people are paying less than last year. Because the people are hurting, businesses are closed. people have had their hours cut.

Does it make sense for the county to have their hand out for more money when many in the county only have lint in their pockets?

We can start with getting rid of that gold-plated fire assessment pushed by Public Safety Director Bashoor. He may understand fires, but he clearly doesn’t understand the economic situation of the people of this county. Many of whom live on just Social Security.

We couldn’t afford this fire assessment when the economy was good and we sure as heck can’t now.

Return to the volunteers that served us so well. We would save money even if we gave the volunteers a stipend to thank them for their service and for being good citizens.

And this need for cuts doesn’t just apply to the commission but the School Board as well. If your taxes are making the kids you care about homeless, then cuts are of more benefit to those kids right now.

Props to Commissioner Tuck who understands the financial pain many in the county are dealing with. Kudos to Raymond Mcintyre (Property Appraiser) and Penny Ogg (Supervisor of Elections) for requesting less than last year. They are clearly in tune with the citizens of Highlands County. And their efforts are appreciated.

Cuts are painful, but people all over Highlands are doing it right now. The commission and the School Board can do it too.

Dana Orr is an Avon Park resident. Guest columns are the opinion of the writer, not necessarily that of the Highlands News-Sun.