05/01/10 — Budget oddities: City's proposed budget is scary -- and a little bit infuriating

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Budget oddities: City's proposed budget is scary -- and a little bit infuriating

It is hard to understand, really, why anyone wasted any time talking about the proposed $9 million recreation center plan considering the surprises that were revealed this past week in the city's budget plan.

After all, if you are considering a plan to jack up taxes, water rates and sewer costs just to make ends meet -- and you are cutting back on money given to several programs and cutting others -- one wonders why in the world you would be even considering adding another $1 million in operating costs to the mix.

So, a citizen might ask, why was there any need to discuss a recreation center?

What is striking, really, is how timely this incident is as this country tries to pull itself out of a crisis caused by people who decided to purchase items that were way beyond their means.

Buying a recreation center right now is like buying a $400,000 house because you can make the payment and it is on sale for $350,000. Yep, it would be great to have the house, and it is a bargain, but if you really can only afford a $250,000 house -- and you aren't sure if you could pay the electric bill if you bought the other one, the truth is that the $350,000 house is a deal that you really should pass up.

The budget the City Council will consider Monday is not really that much of a surprise. With the economy in the dumps, there is less revenue coming in and therefore less money available to cover expenses. Municipalities and states have been dealing with this shrinking revenue problem for more than a year. The fact that we managed at the city and county levels to be able to maintain status quo -- or a semblance of it -- for longer than others is a lucky turn of events.

But, eventually, you have to pay the piper.

But what seems to be the scariest part about this year's plan is that there was even the consideration of adding another expense to an already-overloaded budget. This seems to have been the year to look for more ways to cut, not to add an additional burden onto taxpayers.

It would seem a recreation center vote before the announcement of the 2010-11 budget plan was a little fancy footwork to keep residents from realizing just how much impact such a decision would have on their pocketbooks.

But all that aside, the reality is, there is less money available to pay the bills this year -- and this city has to operate with a clean budget.

Goldsboro residents might have to make some decisions they do not want to make this year -- like what are they willing to pay for and what would they be willing to sacrifice. And when they make those decisions, they can communicate to their leaders what they see as the best course to follow now.

In a year when many politicians and their constituents are learning that sometimes the only promise that works is vowing to keep the budget in the black, tough choices are a given -- and there might be some places that will suffer because of the need to make sure Goldsboro is financially healthy. Feel-good projects sometimes must go by the wayside, and the community might have to take on more of a burden in supporting causes and agencies it wants to see continue their work.

The hard work is just beginning -- and the rocks need to be turned over to find secret small costs that could add up to a significant savings. Every little bit will help this year.

In the end, the decisions made now will set the stage for a strong, vibrant future for this community. But the work is just not going to be easy -- not this year.

Published in Editorials on May 1, 2010 11:36 PM