Sometimes one has to spend money to save money. Still, Steubenville City Council members are right to be concerned about the cost of a proposed "performance audit."
In light of an expected $630,000 deficit in municipal government's general fund next year, City Manager Cathy Davison had suggested council consider a performance audit conducted by the state Auditor's Office. The study would identify ways Steubenville can reduce spending.
On Tuesday night, members of council's Finance Committee heard from Jim Pyers of the Auditor's Office. Pyers said the proposed study "will drive the costs as low as we can get them. ... We don't guarantee savings, but we usually see anywhere from a 4-1 to a 20-1 savings if our recommendations are implemented."
Presumably, the ratios Byers cited were based on the cost to the city of having a performance audit conducted. The price tag could be as much as $80,000.
That did not please some members of council. Neither did the proposed timeline for the study. Pyers indicated it could not begin for five to six months and would require six to eight months to be completed.
Some members of council speculated the city could learn more about cutting expenses by a less expensive process. It also was pointed out the need to reduce spending is an immediate one.
Suggestions the city itself can conduct a performance audit probably are not realistic. Officials have identified some ways to reduce spending, but an objective, professional study such as the Auditor's Office - or perhaps someone else - can conduct probably would lead to more savings.
Indeed, the price tag and schedule for the Auditor's Office study are daunting. But Davison and council should consider some sort of outside examination of city spending. In the long run, money spent for that could result in savings for Steubenville taxpayers.