Editorial: County passes on chance to show fiscal responsibility
Once again the Lake County Board of Commissioners has decided to waste taxpayers' money by going with a higher bid for publication of the county's legal ads. The Lake County News-Chronicle came in at $2.27 per standard advertising unit (SAU) and the Northshore Journal came in at $4 per SAU. Yet the vote was unanimous.
The county spends about $21,500 per year on legals, and if they would have chosen the News-Chronicle it would have saved about $8,200 per year, or spent 38 percent less. A savings of $8,200 is admittedly small in a $43.5 million expense budget, but by not taking the lower bid the county leaves itself wide open to questions regarding how it spends every dollar. Where else is the county spending more money than it needs to?
Price should have been a motivating factor as — if we need to remind you — the county is not on the best financial footing and raised your tax levy 6 percent this year. If the county were financially prudent, they would chosen the News-Chronicle to publish its legal notices.
The reason for this extreme disrespect for the way tax dollars are spent is because the majority of the County Board does not like the fact the News-Chronicle is owned by Forum Communications Company (FCC), a multimedia news company headquartered in Fargo, N.D. As Commissioner Rick Goutermont implied during the county board meeting on Jan. 3, since our paper is not "100 percent locally owned" the News-Chronicle doesn't deserve consideration.
Goutermont has stated multiple times in the past his biggest problem with the News-Chronicle being owned by FCC is he doesn't want to see Lake County money go to Fargo.
Goutermont's reasoning doesn't hold water for many reasons. First, the News-Chronicle pays property taxes on the property it owns in Two Harbors. In 2016, the News-Chronicle paid $2,800 in Lake County property taxes. Second, the News-Chronicle employs people who work, live and pay property, income and sales taxes in Lake County. Third, the News-Chronicle contributes to the community in countless ways, including doing business with other Lake County businesses, providing monetary donations to nonprofit organizations, providing advertising trade agreements to non-profits, and participating in other civic events. The News- Chronicle is a member of and partners with the Two Harbors Area Chamber of Commerce, and is even a supporter of the county by being a broadband subscriber of Lake Connections, the county's broadband project. Fourth, is the county really holding every business it does business with to the same standard? Is the county really only doing business with local, Lake County owned businesses? We don't think so.
Another reason Goutermont said he did not choose the News-Chronicle is because it doesn't go to every home in Lake County for free. While this is true, our legal bid clearly stated that all legals that ran in the News-Chronicle would go in the North Shore edition of the Northland Smart Shopper at no extra cost, which is a free publication that goes to every home in Lake County. The bid also stated that the legals would run online at lcnewschronicle.com and mnpublicnotice.com at no extra cost.
Our staff is constantly out in the community, asking questions and bringing you the news — just as we have for the last 126 years. We frequently have people call us and stop by our office with tips, or to ask questions about what is going on. We follow the business of your local governments and make sure you know what's going on, since the average person does not have the time to attend every county board, city council and school board meeting. It's our full-time job and we take that responsibility seriously. We aren't perfect, but we believe we are unequivocally the best, most reliable source of news in this county, even though your subscription bill may come from a different zip code.
Also, if Goutermont didn't want any money to go outside the county he wouldn't pick the Northshore Journal either as the newspaper pays to be printed in Duluth, and that money, according to his logic, is leaving Lake County.
The County Board seems to think that losing $8,200 a year is perfectly OK, but yet every year property taxes go up to compensate for growing expenses. This year the levy was raised 6 percent; last year it was 3.15 percent, and in 2015 it was 9 percent. How much longer does the county plan to spend money when, and where, it clearly has opportunities to save taxpayers' money?