Leaders have hard task ahead

Published 11:46 pm Monday, August 18, 2008

A good calculator, a spreadsheet and some scratch paper may set the tone for the next year in city and county government.

But it will be the brains, judgment and leadership of the people plugging in the numbers that determines whether city and county government succeed in the coming year.

Local leaders have begun their budgeting process for the next fiscal year, and the city and county have said they’ll be looking for places to cut waste and save money.

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We hope so. Every budgeting process should include a close look at what is being spent. Almost certainly, wasteful spending exists.

But increased expenses are also going to be a reality. Gas and electricity are higher. Some employees almost certainly deserve raises. And some programs need public money in order to exist.

It’s a fine line, and it will boil down to understanding the numbers and making judgment calls.

For many on the city and county elected boards, this is the first public budget on which they’ve worked. Elections last year ushered in new faces with new goals.

Nearly every candidate preached against wasteful spending, but many openly admitted they had never looked at the budget.

Eyes will likely be opened during this month’s budgeting process. Some things are possible; other things are not.

But, to our elected officials, it’s your duty to devote the time, energy and heartache to protecting taxpayer money.

Much of what needs to happen during the budgeting process involves communication — between those with control over the purse strings, those whose work depends on the purse strings and the public who own the purse.

Budgeting is about more than a good calculator.