Hold the Line On City Budget

Earlier this year, Steubenville officials were worried about keeping their budget in balance for the current year. A deficit of more than $1 million was feared for next year.

Now officials are expecting to have nearly $1 million in the bank at the end of this year, and a $538,000 surplus during 2014.

What happened?

Two unforeseen events helped. First, the city collected about $200,000 in municipal income tax revenue that had not been expected. Second, an estate tax settlement of about $300,000, also not anticipated, was received.

But, as Mayor Domenick Mucci explained last week, the key to turning Steubenville’s finances around was spending cuts. Among the big ones was changes in the city’s health care program, but it appears city officials and employees found many other ways to shave spending. “Everyone in the city worked very hard to get to this point,” noted Finance Director Alyssa Kerker.

All involved certainly deserve praise – and thanks – from Steubenville taxpayers.

At the same time, they are to be urged to keep up the good work.

The dramatic turnaround no doubt will be cited by many who would like the city to spend more money on everything from employee benefits to infrastructure. And there are some pressing needs, including work to improve aged water lines.

But this is no time to go on a spending spree, as Mucci and City Council members seem to understand. Uncertainties about several fiscal issues, including health care costs, mean municipal officials and workers still need to keep a tight rein on spending.

This year’s unexpected windfalls could change to unforeseen expenses or revenue decreases next year. Steubenville officials may be seeing light – but the city is not out of the proverbial tunnel yet.