Tight budget belts

Published:

This is the time of year that city and county governments begin putting together their budgets for the next fiscal year beginning July 1.

In both cases, the process is not easy.

In fact, a drop-off mainly of anticipated city occupational tax receipts has City Manager Tony Massey cutting $1.5 million out of this fiscal years $31.5 million budget. Otherwise, the City Commission would have to dip further into its surplus fund to balance this years budget even before determining next years spending plan.

And Fiscal Court continues under the heavy debt obligation it undertook to pay the $5 million judgment won by female victims of former Jailer Hunter Hay. Judge-Executive Robert Roach is correct when he says the on-going debt service on that judgment is not doing the taxpayers of Franklin County any good at all.

Thus the countys decision to set aside money to pay off the jail settlement as soon as practical makes better sense as time passes. The sooner the debt is paid, the sooner the interest costs disappear from future county budgets.

Both the City Commission and Fiscal Court appear to be going about their budget work responsibly with the least effect on essential local government services as possible.

The budget situation points up once again the importance of both the city and county maintaining healthy surplus accounts that can be drawn on in times of budget shortfalls or unanticipated emergencies.

Many financial advisers caution private citizens to maintain three months of living expenses as an emergency fund in case of sudden illness or job loss or other circumstances that may cause an individual to lose regular income.

Similar advice is sound for local governments. And those emergency funds should be tapped only after expenditures have been cut wherever possible without also undermining key city and county programs and services.

With state government salaries on the whole static for the next two years, the city and county occupational taxes on those salaries also are likely to be static as well.

So todays tightened belts at City Hall and the Courthouse probably will stay tight for the near future at least.

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