Budget needs serious work, not rubber stamps

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 17, 2005

A year ago, we criticized the Lawrence County Commissioners for hurriedly rubber stamping the 2004 budget by making the numbers simply look good on paper.

Last year, with an approximately

$127,000 deficit in the preliminary budget, the commission opted to go for the quick way out. They simply said, "Let's cut supplies and equipment by 40 percent." The move made things appear "balanced" and on paper everything was great. But in reality, nothing was really cut.

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Last week, as commissioners prepare to finalize this year's budget, we learned that the county actually spent much more than it planned.

Starting 2004 with more than $900,000 in carryover funds. The county's "bank account" appeared in good order. This year, the county is starting off the year with approximately $600,000 in carryover.

Anyone following the City of Ironton's financial situation should recognize the similarity between the city and county problems.

So the question is: Will the county office holders — all of them, not just the commissioners — pony up to the table and find ways to trim expenses before all of the carryover is spent?

Lots of folks who earn their money from taxpayers' dollars want to talk about becoming more efficient, but few want to actually do anything about it.

Why doesn't the county seriously, publicly explore the potential cost savings involved in merging dispatching between the county sheriff's office and the county's Emergency 911 office?

Has the county ever considered forming a citizens' panel whose task would be to explore ways the government could be more efficient? Such a small panel could easily explore each public office, examine its efficiency and offer suggestions for savings.

Perhaps a public report by such a panel might be enough to light a fire under some of our elected officials. Right now, our county is just holding on. Getting it in a position to truly grow will not be easily or painless, but it's the right thing to do.

Any dollars saved could easily be pumped back into the county as investments. Would you rather have your tax dollars pay someone at the courthouse for a full week's pay despite their not working 40 hours a week or would you rather have better roads, better infrastructure and more people (and their tax dollars) coming into the county?