Restructuring Vital for Village

Mingo Junction Village Council meetings have not been very pleasant occasions during the past few months. The bad news just keeps coming.

There was more on Tuesday night. Village Clerk John Angelica said funds to operate the senior citizens center have been exhausted. The water department budget shows a $77,000 deficit, and there is concern about making a $300,000 payment on the water plant loan in December, Angelica reported.

“Mighty bleak” was how Councilman John Fabian described the report.

Indeed – but no more so than the bad budget news Angelica has been obligated to report previously this summer.

Mingo Junction’s finances are a mess, in large measure because of closure of the steel mill that, directly and indirectly, had provided much of the money to operate the village. The municipality’s $1.27 million general fund budget for this year was balanced only because village officials were able to use a $300,000 carryover from the previous year. Even with that, the budget in reality is unbalanced. Village officials have discussed spending cuts in the range of $100,000 – a lot of money in the context of a $1.27 million budget – to stay out of the red.

Another option discussed earlier this month was to seek court approval to take money out of an earmarked fund for the community complex. That account contains about $450,000.

Even if a way is found to get the village through the current fiscal year, the future is far from bright. Revenue from the closed steel mill probably is gone for good. Cuts in state aid are not likely to be reversed. The village’s population, down nearly 5 percent between 2000 and 2010, is expected to continue to decline.

Severe cutbacks already have been made; the general fund is only about half what it was just a few years ago. More needs to be slashed from the budget, however.

About a month ago we suggested council should hold a public meeting to discuss the village’s dire financial situation. That should be done to acquaint Mingo Junction residents with details of the problem and to get their help in setting priorities for spending. One way or another, however, council members should begin the process of restructuring as soon as possible.