02/25/12 — Pick one: No more unfunded plans. Support the one we have.

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Pick one: No more unfunded plans. Support the one we have.

It is a simple concept really.

You do not take on another project for which you have no concrete plan for a revenue stream and take away from one that you have already committed to.

Not if you are really serious about maintaining a standard of fiscal responsibility.

And, in case you missed it, that is exactly what the Goldsboro City Council is discussing right now.

The Paramount Theatre was built several years ago with an upfront admission -- this was not a project that was expected to bring in millions of dollars in revenue for the city of Goldsboro. It was understood that it was an investment.

And whether or not you think it was worth it, it is a beautiful building that is a centerpiece to a potential downtown revitalization, if it gets the support it needs and the businesses thriving around it.

Now, enter a $500,000 purchase of a building for an Air Force museum.

Good idea? Maybe, in theory. But not when you put a microscope up to the details.

The money for the renovation and support for the museum -- the plan for which is, itself, problematic -- is going to come from the hotel occupancy tax fund that has been being used to pay the debt service on the Paramount. What does that mean? It means that debt service bill will now be heading straight to the general fund -- or, in other words, the part of the city budget that is really supported by your tax dollars.

And, by the way, that is the same general fund that is likely to be called upon to fund a downtown revitalization.

So, really, the decision is simple. Especially in light of the fact that the Local Government Commission has suggested that perhaps the city should keep a close eye on its general fund balance (its emergency fund).

City leaders will have to pick.

So, which makes more sense: an Air Force museum for which we have no funds and a building that likely is not really the best pick for such a location or putting real resources into a downtown revitalization and continued support of a theater that was in essence, a gift to this community?

Seems like a no-brainer.

An Air Force museum is not a bad idea, we say again. And in the right location, with the right funding climate, it is a definite attraction that the city should consider.

And there is nothing wrong with talking about the possibility.

But what makes many people nervous about the museum project -- and its implications for the future -- is that it seems to have grown out of a knee-jerk reaction, a quick decision that was not vetted on how it would become a reality.

And now, it seems that the city is scrambling to try to figure out how to make it work -- even when all the signs say purchasing the building was a mistake.

Goldsboro needs a big play. No one really doubts that. One big decision and a change in direction, with a little vision and responsibility, could be the first step in a real push forward for this city.

But those who are calling attention to the city's debt service, its decision-making and its scattered list of priorities are correct.

There seems to be no real direction and no firm grasp of what it takes to grow while keeping in mind the limits of budgets and the stress on taxpayers.

So, pick one.

Pick a project that can be accomplished, that has some initial steps in place to make it potentially successful and that will keep the city's fund balance in the black.

Take a big step, commit to it and follow it through.

Don't spread the city's finances so thin that we end up with a bunch of half-finished, low quality improvements that will do nothing to make this community better.

Don't just preach progress -- create an atmosphere where it might actually happen.

And that means knowing when you have made a mistake -- and fixing it, before you throw more money down the drain.

Published in Editorials on February 25, 2012 11:06 PM