It’s getting close to budget time in government

In West Virginia, municipalities have until the end of March to prepare and submit their budgets to the state.

That means several of our local cities, towns and villages will be working to review their financial status in the coming weeks as they prepare for the next fiscal year.

In Weirton, for example, a budget workshop is scheduled for Wednesday, to follow a special council meeting at 3 p.m.

I’ve sat through numerous budget sessions over the years, and it is never an easy process. Municipalities have to look closely at the kind of revenue they anticipate to come in down the road, compare that to the expenses they are required to meet and then see if anything is left over to fulfill other requests.

In other words, even if people feel there is absolutely a need to purchase something, or put additional funds toward a particular service, it still might not happen if there is no money available.

Everybody has a wish list of things they would like to see happen in their community.

We all feel our roads could be better maintained, for example.

I’m sure some would like to see improvements in the recreational opportunities in our communities.

Perhaps you feel government employees should get a pay raise.

But what if the funds simply aren’t there? I can’t tell you the number of requests I’ve had to see turned down over the years.

And when those things don’t get to happen, the citizens get upset, which is completely understandable.

At the same time, none of us want to pay higher taxes or see new fees instituted. But, that’s how governments get their money to pay for things. It’s been that way for thousands of years.

The budget process is probably one of the most difficult things that takes place in a government.

It’s the same for all of us, really. We all have to find ways to budget ourselves, knowing how much we earn each year and trying to balance that with our known expenses, hopefully putting some aside for a rainy day, and then trying to save some for a special event.

It doesn’t mean we always make the right decision with our budget, and neither does government.

Mistakes have been made, with funds taken from one area only to be realized they are needed. Programs have been created, and then found to be a failure. Sudden equipment needs are realized, but no money is available to take care of them.

It’s all a massive balancing act, and it usually is best to err on the side of caution, whenever possible, no matter how much money you have.

By the way, because the workshops and meetings to discuss the budgets include a gathering of a particular governmental entity (i.e. city council, county commission, etc. ) all of these sessions are open to the public.

In other words, any resident who is interested can attend and watch the process, witnessing first-hand as officials decide where taxpayers’ money will go for the next fiscal year.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)