OPINION

JUST PLAIN TALK: Walton County needs to better prioritize its spending

Buz Livingston
Buz Livingston

Unless it’s raining, then first thing every morning, we walk. Today, before heading south for the Gulf (not the ocean), we took an umbrella and a trash grabber. We have lived in Blue Mountain for over 20 years, and this week set a debris record.

Trash cans must be optional in Atlanta. By Atlanta, I mean the metro area; it's a community effort. They throw away trash and the good stuff. They must be boycotting Coca-Cola (correctly pronounced Ko Ko Luh); I scored some Wally World water with an unbroken seal. I like visiting the ATL, but I don’t go down Peachtree dumping garbage.

The South Walton Tourist Development Council loves to spend money on advertising like Peter loved the Lord. A smidgen of advertising budget, though, could be spent on trash receptacles. If they included the advertising logo de jour, boom, it's two birds with one stone. They could add to the staff and put locals on the payroll to pick up the garbage, ala Arlo Guthrie. This way, we're keeping a few dollars in the local economy.

Spring break increases overtime expenses and causes additional work for the South Walton Fire District and the Walton County Sheriff's Office. Sure, tourism generates revenue, but local taxpayers pay all first responder expenses outside of the beach lifeguard program.

We should take Bay County's lead. In 2018 the Bay County Tourist Development Council sent $775,000 to the Bay County Sheriff's Office, the Panama City Beach Police Department, and the public beach parks' lifeguard programs.

Instead of researching tractor museums, let's figure out how other counties use bed tax revenue to offset additional expenses local taxpayers pay every spring. Currently, taxpayers are on the hook for spring break-related costs. It's fiscally prudent to look for a way to offset these expenses. Everyone benefits from a rising tide, true dat, but it doesn't help those who aren't in the boat.

Parts of Walton County's mobility plan, like safer bike and pedestrian trails, appeal to me. But the proposed road through the forest is a no-go. I'm looking forward to learning more, but I'm skeptical. By 2040, Walton County will be dealing with third-generation entitled yuppies. It's doubtful they will park their cars once then go to Plan B. Hopefully, I'll be around to find out.

Speaking of the tractor museum, can we please put it out to pasture? Some people will want to look at old tractors … once. Heck, I would, especially if my tax dollars were funding it. In retirement planning, we ask clients about needs, wants, and wishes. Needs are most important and have the highest funding importance. Wants are less critical, and wishes are the least essential. Improved parking, additional beach accesses, and a community pool are more important than a tractor museum. Like in retirement planning, Walton County should prioritize its spending.

You can't always get what you want, but Buz Livingston, CFP, can help you figure out what you need. For specific advice, visit livingstonfinancial.net or drop by 2050 West County Highway 30A, M1 Suite 230.