Setting Priorities For Government

Two similar comments made recently in East Ohio towns miles apart indicate some dissatisfaction with the mix of services local governments provide. As many municipal officials struggle to balance revenue with spending, it may be time for some to ask the public about its priorities.

Most of those attending a public meeting held by Mingo Junction Village Council last week said they oppose a proposed 3-mill property tax levy to help pay for emergency medical services and fire protection.

Among a variety of comments was one from a woman who pointed out the village’s population is decreasing. Municipal officials need to adapt, she said.

Then, she added that while Mingo Junction is having trouble funding public safety services, the village park swimming pool remains open.

This week in Shadyside, Village Council members were urged to increase pay for some municipal workers.

After Mayor Bob Newhart noted the town’s funding is limited, the man who suggested raises responded, “You are losing money on a pool and pay (village workers) nothing.”

Officials in many Ohio?Valley towns and cities have cut back on some services. And yes, a few have been forced to close municipal swimming pools when the cost to repair them became unbearable.

Local government services such as parks, ball diamonds, recreation centers and swimming pools are not frills, in the minds of some. Older people remember a time years ago when, without public pools, many young people swam in the Ohio River, local creeks or lakes. Drownings were not uncommon.

Still, priorities need to be set. Asked whether they want to keep current services in exchange for higher taxes, some people will say no.

How many are in that group? Local government officials having trouble making ends meet should consider holding public meetings and talking elsewhere with their constituents to get answers to that question. Where priorities need to be set or rearranged, the public should be part of the process.