On Aug. 24, the Grand Rapids Business Journal issued an inaccurate, misleading editorial (“Kent County administrator’s request for tax increase should be scrubbed”) regarding the Kent County 2016 budget process and talk of a tax increase. I want to set the record straight.
The Aug. 18 budget work session was an opportunity for the Board of Commissioners to get a first look at the budget. The article written about the meeting, “County budget scrutiny begins,” by Pete Daly, makes no mention of a tax hike recommendation by county staff. While there was one commissioner who asked about the current tax charged versus the maximum allowed under Headlee, let me be clear: A room full of participants can verify that at no time did the County Administrator or county staff ever recommend a tax hike. It is unclear how such an inaccurate assumption could be made.
There are other misrepresentations in the editorial — the impact of property taxes, confusion and misdirection about health care costs — but what stands out to me is the very first assumption: that a tax hike was ever proposed for the 2016 budget. If this had been verified with a call to a board member or county staff (who have been very transparent and open with the media), it is likely there would have been no need for the finger-wagging and chastising in your editorial at all. This editorial was careless and sloppy.
This board and the county staff are dedicated to preparing and submitting a thoughtful, fiscally responsible budget that maintains critical services efficiently and effectively. The budget process is not completed in one meeting. It is a disservice to your readers to print assumptions and a mischaracterization of property values, taxes and the budget process.
Kent County Board of Commissioners