Balancing budgets in bad economic times is tough work. Having decreased funds over a long period of time makes it even more difficult as just about everything that can be cut has been cut. Sometimes cutting more isn't the answer on our biggest needs, and that's where Highlands County is at with the need for a new sheriff's office and the Sebring Parkway expansion.
No one denies that we need a new sheriff's office. The current facility is outdated and overgrown. Renting properties around the area just to house people doesn't work well in the long run, and now we must do something about it.
Highlands County commissioners have gone through all kinds of gyrations on a new sheriff's office for years. It's understandable, considering the economic times we've faced. But now is the time to act and if that requires a loan to do it, so be it.
County staff is looking at every pot of money it can raid to build the sheriff's office and some people have suggested taking it out of funding for new phases of the Parkway. The problem with that is the county will lose millions in grants if the parkway is put on hold, so that can't happen.
At least a few commissioners say they don't want to borrow money because if obligates future taxpayers and county commissions. Yes, it would, but a new sheriff's office and an expanded parkway would also serve those future taxpayers and commission members. These are important infrastructure needs. We're not talking about borrowing money to build an aquatics center.
We hope money can be found to pay for what's needed outright. The one-cent sales tax could go away in 2019, if taxpayers decide to do that. Money from that could build the sheriff's office.
No one wants to borrow money if at all possible, but sometimes it's necessary for important projects. People borrow for homes and cars, and as a county we need a new sheriff's office and to complete the parkway. There's no getting around it.
Let's move forward on these necessary projects before we lose millions in grants and the cost of building goes higher.