Prior to the May, 2018 election, we visited the Crime Lab to see the facility, and to ask why they needed the increase in property taxes the Prosecutor was requesting. Here is the article we wrote after our meeting:
While attending many 2019 budget meetings (those that were considered as an open meeting by Commissioner (blank)….but I digress with my decorum…..), we could not help but take notice of the Crime Lab budget, which is part of the $9 + million budget of the Prosecutor’s office.
We met with the Lake County Prosecutor, Charles Coulson, in his office to discuss the Crime Lab finances. Here is their 2019 Budget: Crime Lab 2019 Budget
Please take note of the “Ending Cash Balance” figures at the very bottom of the page. You can see that in 2014 it was $3,343,552.94, and slowing reduced until in 2018 the ending cash balance was $757,305.88. The easy explanation is that their revenue remained fairly static at ~$1.67 million, but they were spending at a $2.25 million pace. That only happens in government operations, whereas a private enterprise would cut expenses or go out of business.
Mr. Coulson stated that the last Crime Lab levy was about 15 years ago, and wanted the new tax levy to allow them to operate for another 15 years. Since their annual expenses will always be increasing the levy was needed. It appears to us that they cannot be self-sustaining, and must rely on the majority of their revenue from the property tax.
It is also obvious to us that their modus operandi is to ask the taxpayers for more money than they really need in the short term so that they do not have to keep going back to the taxpayers every five years. Taxpayers must be aware that governmental bodies rarely go out of existence, and never reduce their operating expenses. We believe that a pundit once said that a governmental entity is a prime example of “eternal life” here on earth.
You will see in the 2019 budget that it is anticipated that the cash balance will increase to $1,818,392.49 from the $757,305.88 at the end of 2018. The $1+ million increase in cash is the Prosecutor “squirreling away” money for the future, and it is anticipated that this will continue to happen for the foreseeable future until the operating expenses start to ratchet up again. The Crime Lab’s operating expenses have increased $659,000 (~32%) per year in five years from 2015 to 2019.
Mr. Coulson stated that there were three basic reasons for the need for the tax levy:
- Demonstrate to new prospective employees that the funding is in place to ensure their job stability. Without it, we could not attract the qualified personnel.
- The need to be a self-sufficient Crime Lab so that we do not need to rely on outside agencies such as BCI. We can do many other tests not done by BCI, and we can react much more quickly, which helps the law enforcement agencies.
- It avoids having to go back to the taxpayers to pass a levy.
(LFC Comments: There is a legitimate debate on whether Lake County can afford the Crime Lab, but since the voters passed the levy that debate has been settled. However, given the new facts, we wonder if taxpayers would like a “mulligan”. (for the non-golfers that is very similar to a “do over”)
We, respectfully, disagree with Mr. Coulson’s tactic of asking for more money than they need just so that they can increase their bank account, and never need to be accountable to the taxpayers for 15 years. That policy is not acceptable to LFC, because it sucks the lifeblood out of the community; politicians and the bureaucrats forget to whom they are accountable – the taxpayers!
We will have another article on the balance of the Prosecutor’s office budget in the near future. You may be curious on the various roles of the Prosecutor’s office and how the transfers of taxpayers’ money is shifted between agencies.)