City leaders must find budget fix #045; soon

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Time may be the world's most valuable resource and the city of Ironton is running dangerously low on the precious commodity.

For years, city leaders have talked about pending financial doom. Every year some plans are outlined and minor changes are made but they have not been enough. The city has continued to dig itself a gaping hole that dwarfs the one on Railroad Street.

The dirt is piling up and before long the city could be buried by financial burdens. Now is the time Ironton must start to dig itself out - one shovel full at a time if necessary.

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After years of spending at least $350,000 more than it brings in each year, the city's once robust carryover balance is dwindling. Mayor John Elam projects that, unless drastic changes are made, the city will be broke six months into 2006.

Elam has all but begged city council to pass a municipal fee but the only version adopted was for $3 intended simply to offset the money lost from the failure of the floodwall levy.

The majority of council have resisted more significant municipal fees for a variety of reasons including the belief that residents are already overburdened by the recently passed stormwater fee and questions about proper management of the current resources.

Right now, the plan appears to be to ask the voters in November if they want to pay a $15 fee. Unfortunately, that wastes months of potential revenue, and

puts the city's fate in the hands of voters who may be asked to totally empty their pocketbooks all at once.

When they visit the polls this year, Ironton residents could be asked to support a levy for the school system, a levy for the city's floodwall system, a countywide law enforcement levy and the municipal fee.

Supporters could argue that each is needed, and they may be right, but we fear that voters are going to throw their hands in the air and vote, "No" straight down the list.

City leaders must look at the problems ahead with an open mind and be prepared to make some tough decisions - even if that means someone may lose his or her job. If not, the whole ship may sink. The needs of the many must outweigh the needs of the few.

Ironton leaders plan to start looking at "what if?" scenarios in case the fee does not pass. We applaud this but urge quick actions and a good backup plan.

We still believe that some level of fee is inevitable - whether is should be $5 or $15 or in between is debatable. But, why wait?

Leaders should pass something now to stop the bleeding. Even a Band-Aid is better than nothing. When someone comes up with some new and innovative idea, the fee can be changed.

Every day, the sand pours from the hourglass faster than the waters of the Ohio River. But Ironton can't stay afloat much longer.