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From the Desk of County Commissioner
Jim Martin

(1/2018) During 2017 my wife and I were extremely grateful for encouraging events and moments that we were able to share. Keep the word "grateful" in the recesses of your mind. We all know that there are two side to every coin and often the same occurs concerning political issues. In light of that there was a wonderful opportunity afforded us that we never ventured to until January 20, 2017. We decided to attend the Presidential Inaugural Ceremony and be part of a historical moment. In spite of the protests and demonstrations (one side of the coin) that obstructed our passage to the ceremony and parade, we were truly grateful to be present for the protocol and proceedings of the inaugural ceremony (the other side of the coin).

We are also truly grateful to live in a nation that has withstood the tests of time. We owe an immeasurable debt to the sacrifices of our military (and their families) that have protected our nation. We are most grateful for those sacrifices. I believe a true expression of that gratefulness embraces our community on the first Fridays of December. Members of the community from all walks of life came together on that day to participate in the Sergeant Mac Foundation Wreath Project. First we joined together to tie bows on fresh wreaths at a local shopping center. Later that day we joined together again to place the wreaths on the final resting places of approximately 1400 graves of those that defended our nation. My wife and I were honored to participate, as well as many others, and received great encouragement by experiencing all the positive energy that flowed from the project activity.

To me this event comes at a unique time. It falls shortly after Thanksgiving and before the Christmas Season. Whether that was by design I do not know, but the timing becomes symbolic of two things. Following Thanksgiving we are reminded of how thankful we need to be for our men and women who serve and have served in our nationís military. As we approach the Christmas Season we are reminded of a time of giving. Many soldiers gave the ultimate sacrifice and their wreath decorated graves are a solemn reminder of what they gave.

My wife and I can truly wish that the type of gratefulness we experienced by being a part of the Inaugural Ceremony and joining the Sergeant Mac Wreath Project could replace the hatefulness we have seen through the year. Yes, things do change, and opinions do differ, but is hatefulness going to be our process to deal with change? We hope not; so our message is to be grateful and not hateful. As we enter 2018 may gratefulness be the prevailing theme in our lives throughout the year and always.

At this point of my article I can imagine residents of Adams County saying, hey you raised my taxes and you want me to be grateful. I admit that is not a celebratory subject. However, we face rising costs annually just as many individuals do dealing with many businesses, suppliers, landlords, auditors, and attorneys (legal fees) Rising cost can only be managed for a limited number of years while relying on a level tax rate. We do not have the luxury of counties who receive millions of dollars from Marcellus Shale gas fees or revenues generated from strong economic growth. With that being said, we have taken measures to minimize the tax increase.

During the past year we have been successful in containing some major costs due to good financial monitoring and management. When the time was right we eliminated a SWAP financing debt that negatively affected our bond ratings. As a result of paying off the SWAP and having adequate reserve funds, we received a bond upgrading, the highest ever received by the county. This upgrade enabled us to receive lower fixed borrowing rates. With the lower fixed interest rates, we were able to refinance county debt and reduce interest payments by thousands of dollars and escape rising variable interest rates.

Additional cost saving were achieved in 2017 through staffing changes in 24/7 operations. These changes eliminated and/or reduced the amount of overtime paid by thousands of dollars. This is an example of not reducing staffing numbers, but operating more efficiently to prevent overtime. These staffing changes and savings will continue into 2018. In addition to this the commissioners have put a hold on creating any new position in 2018 to achieve cost containment.

Another challenge we faced this year was need to renew union contracts. These contracts are referred to as the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the county and a particular department. A good bargaining atmosphere was entered into by all parties which aided in everyone understanding the needs of each party. This produced a signed agreement between the county and the prison bargaining unit without going into a mandated arbitration to reach an agreement. Arbitration requires considerable legal expense which all sides were able to avoid; thus, this prevented greater county expenditures that would have consumed additional taxpayer dollars. The commissioners are truly grateful for good work done to reach an agreement without arbitration.

As you can see, there are numerous moving parts, many more not mentioned, within the county government that must be managed and coordinated. Thanks to the dedicated staff of the county using their experience and professional skills, we can say with confidence that Adams Countyís financial position is very healthy. To attain that position is commendable in the face of the countyís very marginal economic growth.

My prediction for 2018 is that Adams County will see increased economic growth that surpasses what we have been experiencing. That coupled with the Countyís healthy financial position provides the Adams County board of commissioners with confidence that we can avoid tax increase for years to come.

I wish everyone good health and a blessed New Year.

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