Cut now, come out ahead later

Published 9:43 pm Monday, August 10, 2009

Our county commission is in the process of formulating its most important policy each year: a budget.

According to a report in this past Weekend’s edition of The Clanton Advertiser, commissioners are split on whether to take a conservative approach to the budget or a, well, super-conservative approach. The county would be better served by the latter.

The current budget, which totaled $17 million, was cut 8 percent across the board in April. Commission chairman Tim Mims said he favors including that 8 percent cut in the new budget, while other commissioners either favor less drastic reductions or are undecided.

Though 5 percent or 6.5 percent cuts may turn out to be sufficient, commissioners should assume the worst. It will be much more difficult to adopt a moderate budget then try to make cuts in the middle of the fiscal year, as happened this time, than to adopt a conservative approach and come in under budget. Now, wouldn’t that be something!

The smallest budget possible would benefit the commission in another area it has struggled with: public perception. County administrator Vanessa Hendrick told the Advertiser a1-cent sales tax increase would go a long way toward solving the county’s financial woes. I agree and would vote accordingly, but the hard part will be convincing all the other county residents to do the same.

One thing is for sure: the commission’s reputation as a body that plans poorly then has to borrow money and asks departments to make cuts in April won’t help its case when asking for more revenue.

The only way to change that reputation is to put together a sound budget, and the only sound budget these days is one drafted as tight as possible.