Editorial: Budget argument settles little

Jun. 18, 2013 @ 05:06 PM

The person in the City-County Chambers on Monday night who had the worst job was Tony Helton, the county finance officer.

Helton was caught in the crossfire between two camps of the Caldwell County Board of Commissioners, one advocating the conservative theory of governance that says you should prudently note risks and avoid debt, the other advocating the conservative theory of governance that says tax rates should be as low as is manageable.

Each side focused on its own set of numbers, and though a budget is as much a set of policy decisions and priorities as it is math, at times there seemed to be a flurry of competing calculations, prompting Helton at one point to say simply, “Math works the way it works.”

Each side was right in its argument, within the framework of its top priorities, even if not in its math.

Each one’s worst-case scenario also is unlikely, which only makes it more likely you’ll see similar budget numbers and hear similar arguments again next year.

Also likely to surface again is former county commissioner Ben Griffin, who lost his re-election bid in last year’s Republican primary. Griffin had been publicly quiet since last fall’s general election, but he made a return Monday, coming to the News-Topic offices to hold forth for an hour on his argument in favor of cutting the tax rate, and then speaking at Monday night’s meeting to hit the highlights of that argument, which happened to be the one that carried the night.

Griffin has his fans and his detractors. Nothing about his brief appearance Monday would change anyone’s opinion of him, but it should extinguish his critics’ hopes that he would not come back.