County smartly keeps spending low

Published 2:58 pm Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Times are tight all over Shelby County. The challenged economy is putting pressure on businesses, families, churches and schools.

What impacts these four cornerstones of our community quickly impacts finances for our county government.

That impact was made clear during a county commission work session earlier this week, as county finance director Butch Burbage reported the county’s general fund is $1.8 million short of budgeted revenues.

Fortunately, in anticipation of the down economy, county leaders began months ago making changes to the county’s planned spending for this budget year.

For example, capital projects, such as the construction of new buildings and creation of new parks, have been trimmed by $1.3 million. Open jobs will stay open until the economy recovers.

While managing county finances may deal with larger numbers than making ends meet at home, the underlying principle is the same.

You can’t spend money you don’t have.

Sales taxes on the city and county level have dropped.

Car tag fees are lower because we are keeping older cars rather than buying new ones. County fees are down as developers are building fewer shopping centers and homes.

And some county property taxes remain unpaid, as families and businesses come up short in paying.

Beyond raising taxes, which no one is recommending, governments have few methods to increase revenues. That means decreased spending is the only route to a balanced budget.

Making budget adjustments is never a painless process, but we should be thankful our county officials are doing so.

We don’t need to look far to find examples of what heady spending can do to a county’s finances, and of the great burden then placed on those same four community cornerstones.