Wheeling Spending Cuts an Obligation

People continue to leave the Northern Panhandle and East Ohio, as we reported this week. U.S. Census figures show that since 2010, the population of every county in the region has decreased.

Yet local government spending continues to go up. With fewer people and far fewer of the big industries that once carried much of the tax load, the burden on remaining local residents has increased.

That ought to make plain the course Wheeling officials should take within a few months.

This month, Wheeling City Council members agreed to postpone cuts in the business and occupation tax that were envisioned last year. Lower than expected revenue from a municipal sales tax is being blamed.

But city officials hope to proceed with the B&O tax relief later this year, after City Manager Robert Herron presents them with what could be one of the most important reports Wheeling officials have heard for many years.

Herron is going to recommend ways to limit city spending, possibly by reducing the municipal workforce and changing some local government services. If that can be done, money for a B&O tax cut will be available.

While Wheeling’s population has declined, spending has risen. That is, in part, because the public has demanded new services such as waste recycling. But it also is because there has not been a comprehensive, objective review of spending for many years.

Some Wheeling officials view the Herron report as an opportunity to “right-size” spending. They should, instead, see it as an obligation.