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Are budgets really necessary?

By Staff | Nov 30, 2010

Everyone knows budgets are a good thing, and very necessary.

Whether it is a personal household budget, a church budget, or a school district or city budget, it is a great tool.

Or is it?

In the realm of city government, a budget is not only a great financial tool, it is required.

But, the question comes to mind, sometimes, ‘Is it actually worth the paper it is printed on?’

Sometimes, the budget is only as good as the accuracy of the numbers going into it. After all, ‘garbage in – garbage out’ is another adage that quickly comes to mind when it comes to budgets.

The City of Blue Earth City Council members have been working every week on their 2011 budget. It is obvious they are trying to get as many accurate numbers into the budget as possible.

The results have been surprising.

Just by trimming budget line item amounts to an average of what has actually been spent the past two years, the council has trimmed thousands off the bottom line.

Some of the items have been in the budget for years, and have either been ignored, or just increased or decreased without a strong reason.

Then the council took a closer look at many specific items, trying to determine if they were actually something that should be in the budget.

For instance, there was a line item for $10,000 for ambulance service. It has not been used for years. Thus, the council has decided to get rid of it.

There have been other items either reduced or removed.

Suddenly, the council finds itself with a surplus at the end of the budget.

Here is my thought on that surplus – don’t just let it sit there.

If the council is going to ask the citizens of Blue Earth to accept a three-percent increase in the local levy, they better have a budget that needs it.

In other words, if you have a budget that shows a surplus, why are you asking us for three-percent more on our taxes?

Here is a better idea. Use that surplus to put some items back into the budget, that have been cut out over the past two years.

For instance, a picnic shelter for Putnam Park is one of those items.

When the swimming pool was built, the city promised to also build a new shelter at the park. That has not happened.

In fact, it has been removed from the budget several times.

Councilman Glenn Gaylord (and others) want it back in. Seems like a good time to do it.

Ditto for having a fund to paint the streets with parking designations and crosswalks. It is a shame to be known as a town without crosswalks.

Councilwoman Paula Kelly suggested putting it back in the budget, and it seems like a great idea.

Councilman John Huisman wants a fund started that can help businesses cope with future construction projects downtown and on Highway 169.

The money in the fund could either be loaned, at low interest, or granted to businesses which will be affected when road construction will drastically affect them.

They could use the money to remodel the back door entrances to their businesses, or fix temporary approaches to the front door.

Perhaps they might use the funds to remodel the outside of their business as well.

Again, Huisman’s idea seems like a great suggestion.

As taxpayers, we will willingly go along with a small tax levy increase, if it is necessary.

And, especially if we can see some tangible result of the increase.

Like a decently marked crosswalk. Or a shelter in the park.

But, it would be tough sell if the budget shows a surplus after all the expenses have been met.

Sure, there is nothing wrong with a ‘rainy day fund,’ if the extra cash is available now.

But, it doesn’t seem to fiscally responsible to increase the levy, if it is not really necessary to balance the budget.