Keeping Budget Balanced in 2018

After getting together for a pre-Christmas meeting last week, some Steubenville officials may have thought of going home to announce they didn’t need a thing from Santa Claus. He’d gotten around to them early.

Well, yes, it is unlikely the got that carried away. But they have reason to be jubilant about the new year and grateful for the fiscal gift they unwrapped last week.

It came in the form of the city’s 2018 budget — not only balanced, but also with a small surplus expected.

“This is the first time we have had a surplus projected for a new budget in a very long time,” noted Finance Director David Lewis of the spending plan.

True, in a $35.5 million budget, a projected surplus of $16,257 is not much. But it is better than budgets for some time, which council members approved with the expectation that keeping them balanced would require mid-year spending cuts.

Steubenville taxpayers should be delighted — and grateful — about the budget, too. Their gratitude should be to city officials and employees who, for several long years, worked hard to keep spending under control at a time when revenues were extremely uncertain.

For municipal employees, that has meant forgoing some pay raises, shouldering more work and, in general, doing more with less.

For city officials, it has meant squeezing every penny to the extent they were accused at times of not caring about the needs and desires of some Steubenville residents. It has meant more than a few acrimonious meetings that would have been more pleasant had there been more money to spend.

Last week’s meeting was a bittersweet one for many in Steubenville, as outgoing Mayor Domenick Mucci was honored for many years of service to Steubenville. His reaction, typical from the man, was that he had “truly been blessed by the citizens of this community.”

Mucci’s leadership, spanning a period of transition from relatively plentiful funding to one of sometimes extreme austerity, made an enormous difference.

Christmas is over, of course. Time to get back to the grind, as Steubenville employees and council, with new Mayor Jerry Barilla, begin the new year.

They need no reminder that the tough times are not over. One big mistake or one unexpected major expense could wreck the budget. Steubenville residents should be grateful both for leadership in getting the budget to where it is — and for those willing to make the hard choices to keep it that way.