However it appears generally safe to say that most in government and on the home front appear to be doing a fairly good job of coping. Which, of course, is not the same as saying that they like it.
Basically, government is pinching pennies like most all of us — doing without, stretching meals with less tasty/nourishing fillers, holding yard sales and anything else it can think of. About the only thing it hasn’t done is what’s probably impossible for it, such as extreme couponing.
The Rome and Floyd County governments and their divisions, such as parks, and even the schools are trying to make do with less, just like many of those they serve are attempting. And they’re more fortunate than some of the constituents/citizens they serve in at least retaining a job and some income (taxes).
AS WITH everyone else, local government’s goal is plainly to “hang on” until things improve — which everybody concerned hopes will be the day after tomorrow. Still, nobody is really betting on that as all the “nickel-and-diming” makes clear. It’s now four years after the Wall Street/housing bubble went “Pop!” and many economists predict a full recovery might well take at least 10 years. Every passing day makes them look like they are right.
Looking at the growing list of local government concerns/changes they clearly are larger-scale imitations of what most citizens are doing.
Among the many possible examples:
Watching fuel consumption and trying to cut back by being careful, changing habits and so forth. Looking at “add-on” fees for rentals at Barron Stadium, the pool and other recreation facilities to build a maintenance reserve fund. Trying to mow the park lawns less often.
Some are large, such as taking on added responsibilities like the county “insuring” the bonds of Floyd Medical Center to pick up almost a million dollars in extra but temporary cash. Some are small, such as library late fees on books shortly doubling to 20 cents a day from 10 cents. All of them seem to increase money on hand even as cash routinely arriving is doled out more carefully.
SOME OF the paths are dangerous, such as the mandated tinkering with the formula on how the always-there penny of local sales tax is divvied up. Right now it is Floyd County 56.5 percent, Rome 41.7, Cave Spring 1.8 and none of them have ever considered that fair.
All want more. All avert saying that means the other guy gets less and thus would be given worse problems. None of them concede that simply consolidating all the governments, as this newspaper has long supported, would make this entire divisive charade moot. The sales-tax “pot” is determined by the strength of the economy, not the size/duties of the governments.
It’s also unfortunate that Greater Rome governments, unlike some of our neighbors, never wanted to take on a “second job” to create a supplemental stream of income other than from the taxpayers — such as becoming the electricity or Internet provider. Sure, those cities like Dalton and Cartersville are “hurting” as well but in quite different and generally more manageable ways. (Dalton/Whitfield are actively engaged in trying to consolidate, by the way.)
Oh well, as long as Greater Rome ruling powers don’t start looking at turning existing streets into toll roads like the state is doing that’s spilt milk only good to cry over.
UNFORTUNATELY, it is entirely predictable that the current governmental belt-tightening that is generally being done quite well in these parts will quite soon be insufficient if more local economic life isn’t shown ... for households. And, unlike them, Greater Rome public service providers can’t even go looking for a “second job” ... only for more or new taxes and revenue streams.
Even worse, local governments can’t just roll their money problems downhill as can Washington to the states and the states to the counties/cities/schools. At the bottom of this governmental food chain there are only the citizens with perhaps many (not all, to be sure) not having extra change laying about.
As noted earlier, our local governments have been doing fairly well though not always with equal skill in juggling this situation. And all of them, no matter what little adjustments they might make here and there, are always certain to take some action that hurts a portion of the whole. As with a family cutting corners, none of the kids wants to cope with having to wear the hand-me-downs or be denied whatever new toy they desire.
While not meaning to forecast a longer period of gloom resulting in doom, it is time for local governments as well as households to take more time to consider more permanent options. When the last possible penny has been pinched there are only two possible roads left to take, probably both at the same time.
1. Find more pennies, which for government means raising/adding taxes.
2. Deciding what can be done without and is least essential.
Neither most households nor most governments are at this point yet though it isn’t difficult to see that this sort of frugality string will eventually run out, requiring that a parachute is in place before dropping off the end. Some have indeed gotten there (not only some individuals but places like Birmingham have declared bankruptcy).
At the moment, local governments are doing what many of their constituents are similarly engaged in: Buying time.
Such time has to be put to good purpose, which for an individual might be going back to school to gain more marketable skills. The point to be made is that local governments need to be using the time that they are buying for a similar good purpose such as reinventing themselves, restructuring their income sources so all eggs are not in so few baskets, and making efficiency that is lean — but certainly never mean — their standard for successful performance.