Commissioners must back up their bark

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Kudos to the county commissioners for demanding county officeholders

stay vigilant in monitoring each one's individual budget.

Now we just hope the commission's bite is as strong as its bark.

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In March, a report from the Lawrence County Auditor's Office showed that 18 county offices would run out of money before the end of the year unless each officeholder worked to cut his or her budget. Some offices were projected to bottom out as early as September.

The report showed some line items of the adult probation agency, the domestic violence task force, clerk of courts, the group home, courthouse maintenance and operation and the sheriff's office would run out of money with more than three months left in the year. Additionally, probate court, municipal court and courthouse security were projected to face fiscal troubles by October.

Last week, the commissioners asked for an update on which offices were working to correct the problem and which ones were still headed for the cliff.

We applaud the group for the diligence to monitor the problem. Now it is time that the commissioners stand firm and back up the talk.

Commissioner George Patterson said the burden now falls on the officeholders to be responsible and live within their means.

"We've seen no adjustments made, or not enough made," he said. "Some offices are going to get into trouble."

OK, the warnings have been delivered and commission has done its part. Now the officeholders for the 18 offices that are overspending must batten the hatches and heed the warnings.

Is the belt already too tight? Perhaps, but you can't spend what you don't have. The county does not have a pot of gold hidden at the end of its rainbow. Are some offices underfunded? Almost certainly, but that does not change the problem.

The county will go broke if spending practices are not corrected. Each office can do more to save money and cut expenses - that includes the judges who can courtorder their budgets, though we urge them not to do so because they must be part of the solution not the problem.

Correcting the problem will likely take some tough decisions and may require some personnel cuts. We certainly don't want to see anyone lose his or her job but the needs of the many must always outweigh the needs of the few.

Each officeholder was elected to lead and now is time to do so by example. If they won't, the commission must be ready to bite, not just bark.