In less than a month, local governments will be entering a new fiscal year.
Before that happens, each of the boards who govern political subdivisions, such as the city of Albany, Dougherty County and the Dougherty County School System, will have to arrive at a spending blueprint that balances expenditures against expected income so that everything balances in the end.
It’s not an easy job.
Constituents demand services and many feel they’re already overpaying for them. As household income stagnates but the cost of living goes up, paying for public services through taxes and fees, an unpopular notion to start with, gets even less popular.
Meanwhile, constituents don’t want fewer or reduced services. There’s been a great deal of general sentiment in the taxpaying public that if elected officials spent the money they already had wisely, it would be adequate to cover the cost of government.
Then, of course, there are the political considerations that always come up. This organization or that needs a financial boost and asks for help from a local government board. Most of these organizations do good work and, deep down, no one wants to be the bad guy, particularly when it could have adverse consequences in the voting booth. And the ultimate authorities on local spending are elected to their positions.
Somehow the budget writer has to come up with a spending plan that takes all that into consideration.
One thing that we’ve seen this budget cycle is something we like: A city manager whose philosophy clearly is to spend the people’s money in the same manner he would spend his own hard-earned income.
On Tuesday, Albany City Manager James Taylor caught some grief from some city commissioners over his plans for the city’s $108 million budget for Fiscal Year 2014, which starts July 1.
One particular statement caught our attention. “You guys seem to want to throw money at the problems, and that’s your decision to make,” Taylor said. “I do the things I do for a reason.”
Taylor also pointed out that the city government doesn’t have unlimited resources and that he has been charged with managing its money.
From what we’ve seen, Taylor has taken a no-nonsense approach to handling taxpayers’ money and ensuring that the basic and necessary services and the city of Albany provides to its residents are delivered. He’s taking the right approach.