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‘Found money,’ ‘something necessary,’ the rebate, and stimulus

Column by Chris Graham

The so-called fiscal-conservative elected officials in Waynesboro are falling all over themselves to spend the $560,000 in “found money” resulting from last fiscal year’s budget surplus. Vice Mayor Frank Lucente has even suggested recently that he would like to see the city hold onto the money “until we need it for something necessary.”

“Something necessary”? That sounds to me like somebody wanting to spend my money on something that he wants to spend it on.

Reminds me of my first sitdown at a meeting of the Waynesboro Citizens for Responsible Spending last week. I like the name and the aims, but I began to have issue with the group just a few minutes into the meeting, when a person described as one of the founding members of the group walked to the podium and spent the next several minutes rambling on and on about how “ObamaCare” was going to bankrupt the nation, then gave way to another founding member who spoke for close to 10 minutes on a local historic landmark that she thinks the city should commit time and money to repairing.

“Responsible Spending,” apparently, is in the eye of the beholder. Replace “Walnut Grove,” this person’s pet project, with “Wayne Theatre,” and it’s a liberals’ boondoggle, Replace “pre-emptive signals” with “West End fire station,” ditto.

And now for something revolutionary – one of the supposed liberals on the City Council, Lorie Smith, is the one floating the idea of returning the “found money” in City Hall to, get ready for this, the people that City Hall “found” the money from in the first place.

Smith asked City Manager Mike Hamp last week to explore what City Council would need to do from a legal standpoint to return the $560,000 to taxpayers in the form of a tax rebate.

How such a rebate would be structured would also have to be worked out, and you’re not talking about an amount of money that would make anybody anywhere near close to rich. Just on a per-capita basis, we’d be talking about roughly $25 per city resident.

Which, actually, when you think about it, could act as a sort of at least short-term economic stimulus, because most likely that money is going to go into our bank accounts and then end up being spent right here in the local economy in one form or another.

Smith has also broached the idea of reinvesting the money into economic-development efforts in the city, which have been lacking (at least publicly) with the lack of effort to fill the economic-development director position that has been open since August 2008. I can see the sense to that idea, but the amount of money that we’re talking about is ultimately not going to be enough to do much with on a one-time basis, and that’s how we need to treat this money.

Her first idea was her better idea. We can just as effectively invest the “found money” in our local economy by giving it back to the people that City Hall “found” it from.

Let the people decide the “something necessary.” I think they can do as good a job as City Hall, if not a host better.


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