Watching a little more closely
Budgeting it always a difficult process.
We all have to set a budget, taking into account the amount of money we bring in with our expenses throughout the year.
Do you have a car of house payment? Is there a special trip you would like to take? Do you want to set a few dollars aside each month in the hopes of an important life event down the road?
Every dollar, every cent must be accounted for and balanced. If not, you find yourself out of money and unable to take care of your bills. That’s not a place any of us want to be.
While most of us will never have the type of budget held by our local municipalities, they must do the same thing each year.
Local officials spend the first few months of the year reviewing their revenue streams, annual expenses, planned projects and many other factors in an attempt to calculate a budget for their next year.
Unlike municipalities, we thankfully aren’t required to send our budget to the state for approval.
But that is what our cities have been working on in the last several weeks, and while their budgets are being sent to Charleston this month, I know there is still much work for many of them.
Whether it is the $1.4 million budget in Wellsburg, the $526,490 planned for New Cumberland or the estimate $14.6 million currently set for Weirton’s budget, many of our communities are facing similar situations this year.
Rising costs and reduced revenue are being felt by all of our communities, and it will take a lot of work and difficult decisions for the next several years.
Many of those decisions probably won’t be popular with the citizens either.
As with any budget situation, when a person (or municipality) is faced with a situation of increased expenses or a reduction in revenue, they are limited in what choices they can make.
An individual, for example, can either try to get an increase in pay at work, find another job with better pay or take on a second job. They also could find some expenses to cut; perhaps they don’t eat out as much, cut back on clothes shopping, make smaller payments on credit cards for a while.
Municipalities, on the other hand, are faced with two main choices: increase revenue through various fees or taxes and cut back on services.
That’s where most of our communities find themselves now. Revenues are reduced through a decrease in population, lower taxes, fewer grants and various other reasons. Meanwhile, expenses are increasing as supplies and material costs go up, insurance becomes more expensive, employees receive pay raises, new equipment is needed, etc.
Weirton, for example, is faced with a budget with very little wiggle room and almost no major improvement projects for 2015.
The state of West Virginia is experiencing similar situations, having to dip deeply into the state’s “rainy day” funds to balance the budget.
The Legislature, also, has some difficult decisions to make over the next several months, and, especially, next year when the state’s financial situation is expected to continue getting worse.
It is sometimes difficult to understand the impact of these decisions.
We will all be impacted in some way. We may end up having to pay higher fees or we could see services on which we have come to rely no longer available.
Higher taxes on businesses aren’t good on any level. But are there any services you feel you could live without?
Those are the choices our local councils, county commissions and legislators are facing, and will be facing more often, as we go forward.
Big changes are going to have to come in order to make it through these difficulties.
I would suggest our elected officials make sure they continue to keep residents informed about their decisions, and I suggest residents take time to learn about what is going on, why decisions are being made and let their voices be heard throughout the process.
(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)