Holding County Spending Down

Government budgets at all levels seldom seem to be lower than in previous years. On the rare occasions when they are, they often are accompanied by predictions of doom and gloom.

Except in Belmont County. There, county commissioners have approved a 2019 budget of $21.9 million — about 2.5 percent less than last year. And Commissioner J.P. Dutton said last week that, “We don’t have an immediate concern that there’s going to be layoffs or loss of services because of this budget.”

No department in county government will be spending more this year. Some were budgeted for less. Yet commissioners foresee no need to reduce services to the public.

In fairness, it needs to be noted that government must cope with many of the higher costs of living that affect us all. Health insurance premiums higher? Multiply that by dozens or even hundreds for a local government entity. Gasoline prices trending up? Figure in the impact on scores of vehicles traveling hundreds of thousands of miles a year.

Often, what public officials refer to as discretionary spending — that over which they have “yes” or “no” authority — is limited. Certain fixed costs have to be covered in annual budgets.

Holding spending down can be difficult, as anyone who has tried one of those exercises in government budgeting can attest.

Somehow, Belmont County commissioners seem to have managed it this year.

That required a year-round focus on the budget by Commissioners Dutton and Josh Meyer. Commissioner Jerry Echemann just took office.

Good for them.

Unforeseen circumstances could force commissioners to revise their budget upward, of course. That would be beyond the control of even the most penny-pinching local government official.

But for now, Belmont County taxpayers will be spending less and, we assume, enjoying it more.

Keep up the good work, commissioners. And, by the way, share your formula for success with other local government officials in our area.

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