Fix to city#039;s budget woes found in middle

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Ironton's elected leaders and the city's residents remain divided over how to address the city's financial troubles that include spending as much as $500,000 more than it brings in and not having money to increase services.

Even as many residents remain on opposite sides of the fence, the city council continues to bicker and have been unable to reach much common ground.

One side favoring a $15 per month municipal fee does not want to back down. The other side has adopted a wait-and-see approach and are content to wait and ask the voters in November how they feel about the $15 per month municipal fee.

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We have urged the group to find a compromise but, as of yet, little has been accomplished. Everyone has offered their solutions, so we tried to come up with our own.

Council should draft a budget that is similar to last year's but does not include any more personnel cuts - at least not yet. The group should immediately adopt a 3-year, $7.50 per month, per household municipal fee.

This will give the city some revenue now. The mayor must determine how to best use it while still decreasing the burden on the city's dwindling carryover.

Then an additional $7.50 per month fee should be placed on the ballot for voters to decide. The first fee is an absolute necessity and should not require affirmation from voters - the leaders must do what is best for the city and that means stopping the financial bleeding. Period.

But this second portion would allow the city to look towards making some much-needed improvements to equipment and the addition of police officers, if voters feel these services should be extended beyond the basic offerings.

With this plan, the city would have a balanced budget that would only get better once reciprocity revenues start rolling in. But that is only the first step.

Does it have all the answers? Not even close. Does it address all the city's needs? No way. But it is a start.

Then, city leaders must make some tough decisions and look at every single aspect of city operations for inefficiencies. This includes eliminating management positions that could be done without or combined with other positions, making Ironton's service charges comparable with other cities and forcing the police department to enforce the laws in place and generate some revenue of its own.

This plan allows for immediate action that meets both sides in the middle. If council refuses to come together on this, or insists on asking the people to make the decisions the leaders were elected to make, then each councilman has failed in his duty.

Just like in any relationship, compromise is vital to government. Anyone who sees this issue as only black or white is color blind - and blind to the needs of the city.