Letters to the Editor

Contract county planning department

It has been reported that $1.6 million is being paid annually by taxpayers to subsidize the planning and building departments of Calaveras County. These services are normally supported through permit fees.

There is a staff proposal to jack up the fees. However, the building industry is suffering major reductions from the boom times of the past three years. Many property owners object to unreasonable charges for permits and would cancel or postpone building. The real estate industry smells a rat and wants an investigation; the supervisors seem to agree, though they might have caused the problem in the first place.

To return to fiscal sanity we must look at this public animal a little closer. Is it reasonable to expect county government to operate efficiently and be responsive to changes in the economy? The answer is no, according to studies by the Reason Foundation and others. The "squander factor" intrinsic to government usually runs from 30 percent to 50 percent compared to similar activity in the private sector, says this study. This does not include the substantial losses caused by bureaucratic delay or even abuse of police power when property owners are denied the right to build. Perhaps contracting out is part of the answer.