It’s far better to have too much money than too little. But being flush is not without a downside.
Champaign County government has what could be construed as a pleasant problem, $40 million in federal funds intended to ease the pain caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown on life as we knew it.
The problem, of course, is that while $40 million is a lot of money, suggestions on how to spend it far exceed the money available to spend.
The county board and County Executive Darlene Kloeppel are in the midst of soliciting recommendations from various groups and county officials on how to spend the money in a way that would benefit the most people.
Expect the suggestions to range from the sublime to the ridiculous.
For example, two county officials are proposing $10-an-hour in bonus back pay for some county employees for being on the job at their place of employment during the pandemic.
Kloeppel suggested taxpayers would be “livid” to see money directed to public employees who were able to keep their jobs while so many others in the private sector lost their businesses and jobs. She’s right.
But the suggestion portends a potential problem — where there’s money to spend, it will be spent, and not necessarily in a wise manner.
Another idea pushed by the Champaign County Farm Bureau is investing the relief funds into bringing sophisticated broadband internet service to rural areas. That’s an idea with merit. Unfortunately, spending the entire $40 million on it would only cover part of the expected costs.
Then there are the infrastructure issues. That includes, minimally, deferred maintenance. It could include the cost of a new county jail.
Everyone will know more once county officials review what will be a vast wish list and have the opportunity to hold public hearings.
This is a good problem to have, but it’s still a problem.
County officials have a great opportunity as well as a grave responsibility to oversee this issue in the best possible way.
However it works out, there will be those disappointed in the outcome. But let’s hope that no one will deny the obvious merit of the individual spending projects that are ultimately approved.