Cut Spending In Martins Ferry

Martins Ferry City Council members have a variety of options for balancing their 2017 budget. They should cross two off the list immediately.

During a meeting last week, council members were told by city Auditor Rita Randall that Martins Ferry’s budget ended 2016 with a $209,198 shortfall. Several departments are not making ends meet, she said.

In finalizing a budget for the current year, “there have to be some strict cuts or a way to increase income in order to bring the balances out of the deficit to cover expenses,” Randall advised council.

Council members may have little choice on what to do about some departments. For example, “enterprise funds” such as the sewer department are expected by state officials to bring in enough revenue to cover expenses. Raising rates may be the only way to avoid running afoul of that requirement.

But in other facets of government, the choice may come down to reducing expenses or increasing taxes.

Finding ways to cut spending should be council’s goal. Too many Martins Ferry residents and businesses are having their own problems making ends meet for a tax increase to be a reasonable option.

There is another possibility, of course — but it is a bad one.

A year ago, city officials managed to submit a balanced budget in part by projecting that some areas of revenue would increase. Those hopes did not come to fruition, however — leaving city government in the red for 2016.

This time around, the prudent course would be to rely on conservative estimates of revenue — much more likely to be correct. Wishful thinking kicks the can down the road, and that merely delays an inevitable day of reckoning.