Now-departing Bucks County Chief Operating Officer David Sanko wrote the following Guest Opinion in the Courier Times yesterday…
For the last five years, it has been my privilege to serve the residents of Bucks County as chief operating officer. During that time, your county government has made tremendous strides – fiscally, physically and in the constantly evolving realm of service provision. At a time when governments around our nation are seeing budgets stretched thin or turned to ribbons of red ink, Bucks County is uniquely positioned to handle the current economic climate. The reason for this is two words: fiscal responsibility.
For three years in a row, the board of commissioners held the line on county property taxes – the first time since 1994-96!
I’m not sure why Sanko is praising the commissioners here, but it should be noted that (according to here), property taxes in Bucks have gone up 46 percent since 2001, so I think the whole “three-year” thing should be taken with a grain of salt, to say the least.
Back to Sanko…
Further, under the expert guidance of Finance Director Brian Hessenthaler, the last five years have produced a steady growth in the county’s general fund, also known as the “rainy day” fund. From a 2005 total of $9 million, we increased that rainy day fund to the current figure of $73 million. This allowed us to earn a record setting high S&P bond rating, and saves us money as we borrow in the future for open space and the new Justice Center.
In response, I’d like to point out (from here) that every time our august Bucks County Commissioners want to designate property for open space, they issue a bond as opposed to drawing up a regional plan in coordination with other Bucks municipalities, which is bound to be cheaper; as former commissioner candidate (and now PA House Rep for District 31) Steve Santarsiero noted, “the county doesn’t have enough money to (issue a bond) for every piece of property that needs (an open space) designation.”
Back to Sanko…
How has this growth been achieved? In addition to prudent spending, we’ve refinanced multiple bond issues, hired a county grants coordinator (producing more than $2 million in grant awards), convened a BEST (Bucks Employees Saving Taxes) Committee that replicates sound business practices, asked our management team to make difficult but wise choices regarding their departmental budgets, and improved efficiencies by hiring an asset manager.
Oh, and speaking of hiring employees, it should be noted that Sanko, along with Bucks County commissioners Jim Cawley and Charley “I Have A Semi-Open Mind” Martin, “(hired) two employees without publicly advertising those open positions or interviewing anyone other than those who got the nod for the jobs,” as the Courier Times tells us here (one position was a $30,992-a-year job as an administrative assistant for the public information office, and the other was a $19-an-hour position for a legal secretary – the whole matter was aptly summed up by the other commissioner, Dem Diane Marseglia, as “policy as usual”).
And speaking of cronyism in hiring, Martin said here that he wanted to replace Sanko with “a political operative” (the beat goes on).
Also, I would like to enter the following “into the record,” as it were, as long as Sanko is telling us how wonderful he is:
Sanko dismissed Patrick Murphy’s call here for a paper ballot backup to a vote as an “unfunded mandate” (makes too much sense, I guess).
He had the lock changed on the County Commissioner’s office because Diane Marseglia gave a reporter the combination to the office suite, as noted here (drat that “good government” impulse!).
Cawley said Diane owed Sanko an apology because Sanko had failed to provide information Diane had requested, namely, the written justifications by county employees for vehicles on our dime (here – typical).
County Board of Elections Director Deena Dean accused Sanko of “two years of harassment” here.
Sanko participated in a GOP fundraiser here, which he considered “no big deal,” even though he did so as a government employee (typical for a Bucks County Repug).
I will acknowledge Sanko’s successes in his position, which he notes in his farewell. While he deserves credit, I would be happy if his replacement achieved a similar measure of success without the execrable wreak of political partisanship that Sanko managed to turn into a job requirement.