One of Lou Magazzu’s chief accomplishments during his reign was to reward Bernie Brown with an inside deal that would cost taxpayers millions. Bernie had a building that was vacant, with no tenants in sight. Lou worked out a midnight deal, without approval of other freeholders – a deal which legality was questioned – to lease this building in a lop-sided, one-sided lease that benefited a few insiders and screwed all of the taxpayers.
The county could have built a new building for half of what was spent on the lease and temporary renovation of this building. The most recent figures I have heard is that this lease has cost Cumberland County taxpayers over $12 Million; when the building is vacated it will cost several million to put it back into the condition it was in prior to it being occupied.
Tom Sheppard is heading a sort of task force to find areas where the county can save money. The committees consist of citizens, and while I question the wisdom of inviting certain persons to be involved who have displayed a bitter hatred for humanity, hopefully some good ideas will still come out of their brainstorming. Top on the list is how to consolidate and save on the costs of maintaining county buildings, of which the Bernie Brown travesty is one.
One of the committees is reviewing operations at the Cumberland County Library, which the freeholders are already proposing to shutter to help close a 2012 county budget gap that could be as large as $10 million.
Sheppard said another key review is of the buildings now used for county government operations. That includes buildings that the county both owns and leases, he said, including the county’s one-stop career center on Delsea Drive in Vineland. Republicans have for some time questioned the cost of leasing that building.
The best part of this plan is that it involves ideas from people that don’t have a stake, who are no county employees. While the departments that will ultimately be affected should have a voice in any final decisions, it is good to keep them out of the process, for now, of looking for cuts. The empires created by public employees tend to find reasons why they could not possibly, ever, do with one dime less or one square-foot less than what they already have. Unlike the private sector, there is absolutely no onus to control spending or to avoid over-staffing with unecessary man-power.
Wile the private sector rewards the fiscally responsible, the public sector rewards those with the biggest personal empire, even though it comes at a cost to the public they pretend to serve. And before anyone tosses the line that public employees pay taxes, too – it must be remembered that the tax revenues they pay came from somewhere – that revenue came from the tax coffers to begin with. So these taxes do not offset the costs of government in anyway; it is merely a shell game – a game of diminishing returns.