Enlist Public’s Aid on Budget

The collapse of RG Steel has hurt many families and several communities in the Ohio Valley. Among the hardest hit has been Mingo Junction, where village officials face exceedingly difficult decisions during the next few months.

When Village Council members adopted a $1.27 million budget for the current year, they had few reasons to be concerned. But RG Steels’s bankruptcy filing has changed all that.

As municipal officials learned this week, the village’s budget is in sorry shape. Income tax collections lag about $120,000 behind projections at the start of the year, with five months left in the budget year.

In addition, the village water department may lose about $100,000 in sales that had been expected to the RG Steel mill in Mingo Junction.

By this fall Village Council may have no choice but to cut $100,000 in spending, municipal Clerk John Angelica warned during a meeting Tuesday.

One suggestion aired during the meeting was for council to seek court approval to use some of the $450,000 set aside in the community complex fund. Given the impending emergency facing Mingo Junction, such a request should be approved in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court, if it is made.

But council members view using money out of the fund as a last resort. They are right in that philosophy – and also in believing a public hearing should be held before such a drastic step is taken.

One way or another, however, the village can’t spend money it doesn’t have. The budget must be brought back in balance somehow.

The first step in accomplishing that should be turning to village residents in a public hearing at which all the options – with what certainty officials can manage in a very uncertain situation – are laid out. After that, the tough choices can be made, hopefully with the public’s support.