Archived Story

City needs real solutions not Band-Aids

Published 12:00am Sunday, January 29, 2012

Talk about putting the proverbial cart before the horse. Some Ironton leaders are putting a whole wagon train up front and shooting the Clydesdale when it comes to its ongoing budget crunch.

City council is in the ongoing process of analyzing each department and looking at holistic ways to make operational changes to how the city functions. This is a process that is expected to last at least another week or two.

Yet the group is already considering legislation that would ask citizens to hand over more of their hard-earned money.

Council gave first reading Thursday to an ordinance that would eliminate the long-standing reciprocity agreement — meaning everyone who works must pay the city’s 1 percent income tax regardless of where they are employed — and another ordinance that would raise the municipal fee from $8 per month to $10.

Making matters worse is that some members of council were in favor of deviating from standard procedure to adopt the fee and tax increases that night — a move that would have essentially stifled real opportunities for citizens to speak their minds.

Regardless of their individual motivations, this didn’t happen because councilmembers Bob Cleary, Beth Rist, Philip Heald and Dave Frazer held their ground.

Although these changes may have to be implemented down the road, and may even make sense if administered properly, now is certainly not the time.

So far the city has not shown it is serious about trimming expenses, having only discussed a myriad of options and not implemented any of them.

Putting tax or fee increases on the table so early in the process completely undermines all efforts toward cutting expenses.

If these revenue changes are approved now there becomes no sense of urgency. Basically, all the city has done is apply a financial Band-Aid.

Without addressing its expenses and an employees’ benefits package that is almost unheard of, the city is continuing to operate a system that is unsustainable.

If changes aren’t made, citizens can go ahead and ask themselves these questions: When will the next fee increase come? Three years? Five years? Ten years?

Make no mistake about it, more fees will come if real solutions are not implemented. And looking for Band-Aids before fully diagnosing the “injury” is not a recipe for success.

Ironton residents cannot be asked to continually absorb the cost of running a government that keeps adding expenses and does little to curb those.

A variety of changes have been proposed. Some — such as job consolidations and service changes — could make a big difference.

It remains to be seen if council can agree on these points. Even a “no-brainer” like changing a law that is essentially allowing taxpayers to subsidize free dumping for contractors has been met with opposition.

These ideas have to be fully explored before asking citizens to spend more.

City leaders still have time to do just that — lead.

That means making a plan not just for today or tomorrow but drafting a long-term plan that can sustain the city for years to come.

 

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com.

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