Cooperation helps county with budget

Jefferson County commissioners can hold their heads up after approving an annual budget that actually shows a slight increase with no cuts in staffing and services.

Commissioners last week approved a $14.1 million budget for 2013, an increase from $13.4 million in 2012.

Many surrounding communities are struggling with trying to pass a budget without cuts in workers and services. Those communities are fighting a loss of state funding that has been nearly eliminated in an effort to balance the state budget. Those cuts were announced in advance, giving communities a chance to make adjustments.

The commissioners took heed of the warnings and worked the cuts into prior budgets. The board made adjustments to spend within its means.

The county does have two big advantages over cities, village and townships.

The state is distributing proceeds from the casinos to counties. While the county lost state local government money, it was almost made up with $700,000 in casino revenues.

The county also has a sales and use tax, with revenues that have been inching up over the past year. That probably is due to the oil and gas industry activities, including the large checks many residents received from gas drilling leases and pipeline easements.

Commissioners start work early on preparing the budget. They meet in November with department heads and elected officials and listen to reasoning for increasing appropriations.

They go over the budgets line by line, looking for savings and efficiencies.

Some departments do receive an increase in spending. Others are cut or face no increase.

There was a time when department heads and the commissioners got into shouting matches over the budget appropriations.

Now, department heads and elected officials work within the amount of money provided. The department heads and elected officials deserve as much credit as anyone for operating within the money allocated. Their work and cooperation leads to a balanced budget.

The future looks promising for the county but the commissioners, as Commissioner David Maple has said, need to keep the foot on the spending brake.

It is refreshing to see, at a time of never-ending federal budget fights, that the commissioners can work together, along with department heads and elected officials, to make a budget work.