Resident grabs bull by the horns
By Emily Bialkowski
Caledonia resident Chuck Schulte is on fire. Not in the literal sense, but in the sense that he’s really passionate about getting the Houston County Board to better serve taxpayers. He has attended several meetings, sat back and observed, and has also done his homework comparing Houston County’s budget to those of neighboring counties.
He spoke to the board at their Jan. 15 meeting and asked them to think about and explain why it costs the county so much more money to do business than Fillmore County. He reported that Fillmore County’s budget is about 40 percent less than Houston County’s despite a population difference of 1,800.
He began by saying, “I’ve been monitoring the county board for over a year and looking into the finances and expenditures. In that process I’ve walked around and talked to people – young families with children, middle age people working and elderly people.
“I talked with a woman in her 80s. She’s living in the same home she’s lived in for 80 years, and she said, ‘Chuck I don’t know what to do,’ as she had tears running down her face. ‘I’ve been in this house my entire adult life, and I can’t pay my bills anymore.’”
Schulte said he thinks taxpayers carry too much of the burden in Houston County and provided documentation supporting his sentiments.
Here’s how they broke down:
2013 budgeted expenses: $32,067,842
Population in 2010: 19,027
Square miles: 552
Budgeted expense per square mile: $58,093
2013 budgeted expenses: $22,959,094
Population in 2010: 20,886
Square miles: 861
Budgeted expense per square mile: $26,665
Allamakee County, Iowa
2013 budgeted expenses: $20,665,290
Population in 2010: 14,330
Square miles: 639
Budgeted expense per square mile: $32,340
Schulte admitted that Allamakee County, Iowa might be a poor comparison because of different state funding formulas, but also noted that any business looking to locate in the vicinity would consider these numbers.
He questioned why the Houston County highway department budget ($15,335,647) is so large when it has less roads to maintain.
He questioned why Houston County’s budget is 40 percent larger than Fillmore.
He asked, “What are you going to do next year?”
The 2013 budget introduced a 6 percent increase for Houston County residents and robbed $200,000 from the general fund – a tactic also used in 2012.
“I will be back,” Schulte said. “I want to know why and what we’re going to do about it because I’m kind of committed to this.”
He implored the board to consider the elderly female he began his conversation with.
“Think about her before you spend. I want you to think about how she is going to pay her bills – a lady who has never asked for anything,” Schulte said.
Commissioner Steve Schuldt said the information and presentation packet contained a lot of material to digest but that he was appreciative of Schulte’s work.
Schulte is set to speak again during the Jan. 22 board meeting.