Tuesday, February 19, 2008

At What Cost THEIR Priorities?

According to The Bull Run Observer*, the budget is so tight, the BOCS is requiring all County Department Heads and other Boards to trim costs. For the libraries, this might mean closing one day a week, some including Sundays.

John Stirrup says, it's "incumbent on us to find cuts."

The Library Board of Trustees, of course, doesn't want to resort to such drastic measures, and for good reasons. Dick Murphy, Library Director, is reported as saying, "There's no good time to close the libraries....There's no slack time."

For families on the run and for families with small children looking for an educational outing, this is more than just true. Libraries run on extended schedules and tight budgets to support the diverse needs of the community. Sundays are often the only days working families can bring their children to the library for some uninterrupted quality time. Cutting hours can only mean, once again, cutting education and support of the family, in just one more sector.

Recall that among other services the BOCS intends to cut, PWC already has a waiting list for elderly and disabled services. The police department, fire departments, and other emergency services are already running at deficits from last year's cuts. The BOCS plans to cut even more health and safety programs by banning undocumented immigrants from gang prevention programs, providing substance abuse treatment, and cutting other health and safety programs. Social services for the poor, mentally ill, and the chronically ill operate on bare minimums already, providing hardly enough assistance to keep residents in their homes and off the streets. Schools have taken the hit for many of the BOCS's priorities, most of which target the least fortunate and the middle classes.

Yet, the BOCS today is about to push through use of their discretionary funds to pay for the controversial, expensive and what many say is discriminatory, immigration resolution. The resolution, specific to Prince William County, will cost millions to implement. While today's decision might fund the Criminal Alien Unit, one wonders first, how the rest will be funded, and second, how many more services the BOCS intends to deprive the communities of in their reach to satisfy the few?

Noting the tight budget, *Stirrup claims he and the BOCS will be closely examining every Board's budget to find cuts and trim the 'fat.' Why didn't the BOCS plan for such an economic emergency? Why doesn't PWC have more than just contingency funds to fall back on in a near-recession with a crashing housing market? Stirrup and Stewart plan to apply the panic process to service budgeting and every Board in the County.

Apparently, this process doesn't apply to their own Board, the Board charged with overseeing the well-being of the community. One wonders, "Who oversees the BOCS?"

No matter what we think of immigration policy and the immigration resolution, we must think carefully about how much we are willing to give up to fund what has become the political capstone on the BOCS and the resolution's supporters. Funds dumped into an endless pit of bureaucracy, racial profiling, liability, and ego deprive all of us of programs we need to take better care of our families.

If PWC is truly that concerned about taking on the federal responsibility of immigration control, why not start with increased policing of health hazards such as houses occupied over the occupancy limits, policing of truly criminal activity being run from homes, and environmental issues such as waste disposal?

Why not invest in adult education to teach all immigrants to assimilate and speak English and gain citizenship?

Does the budget truly reflect satisfaction of all County residents? How does the County actually measure satisfaction?

But most importantly, why not invest in services that support strengthening, educating and maintaining the health of all our families?

These are serious questions we need to ask of Stirrup, Stewart, and the BOCS.

It's time to demand answers NOW.

*information courtesy of The Bull Run Observer, "Tight Budget could cause library closing one day a week," by Gretchen L.H. O'brien, Feb. 15, 2008.

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