Set Priorities In Steubenville

Steubenville City Council members find themselves in an unenviable position. Within the next few years, municipal government expenses are expected to outpace revenue. Yet they are being asked to approve $29 million in additional debt.

At least some of that borrowing will be unavoidable. Improvements in both the city water and wastewater treatment systems are needed. Some are mandated by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Other proposals for the money may sound as if they fall into the optional category – but even that may be debatable.

During a meeting this week, council heard Finance Director Stacy Williams’ proposal for sale of $29 million in bonds. Williams explained she would like to borrow $9 million this year and $10 million in each of the following years.

At the same time, she noted the city has “a looming deficit in 2016 …”

Again, some of the borrowed money would go to water and wastewater system repairs and improvements. But the remainder would be for various projects, possibly including other infrastructure work and demolition of dilapidated buildings.

Williams’ proposal drew a mixed reaction from council members. Some favor borrowing the money to make improvements that could pave the way for progress in Steubenville. Others worry about more indebtedness at a time when the city will have trouble paying for day-to-day operations.

Obviously, if Williams’ forecasts are correct, additional revenue would be required to pay off the proposed bonds.

Council will meet again at 6 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the proposal. At that time, council members should obtain a breakdown of how Williams proposes to spend the bond money.

Then, council members will have to set priorities. They will have to weigh the need for some spending against the effect additional taxation will have on Steubenville residents and businesses.

Input from those people certainly would be helpful, so those interested in the proposal should attend the meeting.

New taxes and/or fees are on the horizon to keep the city’s operating budget in balance. Council members should be very cautious in borrowing money that also will require additional revenue, unless the spending involved is part of a comprehensive, realistic approach to improving Steubenville’s economy.