Spending Cuts Vital in Bellaire

Clearly, Bellaire village officials have no choice but to find ways to cut municipal spending. Otherwise, the town’s budget will have a gigantic, unsustainable hole in it next year.

During a village council meeting last week, Bellaire fiscal officer Tom Sable said the 2014 deficit could be as high as $435,000. Reportedly, he made the comment during a discussion about police department pay raises.

Unfortunately, there is no room in the budget for talk about higher spending on anything, including police department raises.

There seems to be no way village officials can balance the 2014 budget without making substantial cuts in spending. As Sable explained, even an unexpected increase in tax revenue would leave the village $235,000 to $240,000 in the red – at best.

Of the two potential avenues to balancing the budget, one, voter approval of higher local tax rates, probably is out of the question. A village levy request on the ballot in 2011 was rejected soundly, by a 247-105 vote tally. And during the past few years, Bellaire residents also have said “no” to tax increases for the village school system.

Bellaire is far from alone in facing severe budget challenges. Several East Ohio municipalities have had to slash spending during the past couple of years.

Many local government officials have blamed cuts in state assistance, at least in part, for budget woes. Indeed, that has hurt many severely; Sable estimated Bellaire has lost $240,000 a year in state funding.

But there is no reason to believe the local government support cuts will be restored. That leaves Bellaire and communities like it with no choice but to reduce spending – and that means cutting services to residents and businesses. The sooner Bellaire officials make plans to do that, the better.