Budget time looms

Published 9:54 pm Friday, August 28, 2009

Municipalities across the state are well into the end of their fiscal years.

Many have worked on their budgets already. Even a few have revealed their budgets publicly.

For example, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange has prepared a budget, delivered his budget message and made it pubic on the city’s Web site.

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The budget was presented to the city council Aug. 18.

The Montgomery City Council will vote on the budget at the Sept. 1 meeting.

Here in Selma, the city council has yet to see a proposed budget from city departments.

The fiscal year ends Sept. 30. A new one begins Oct. 1.

Mayor George Evans said he has met with city department heads and a budget is forthcoming.

What the public has not seen is a concerted effort on the part of the city, including the council, to have an orderly process where the budget is concerned.

Waiting this long raises fears that the upcoming fiscal year’s guideline will be slap-dash, riddled with overestimates or underestimates and need much adaptation in the upcoming year.

The budget is a guideline. It is not fixed, but preparation for a budget must be rational and sensible.

Evans gives a budget accounting each month to the council. This is good.

City officials know sales taxes, which drive the general fund, have dwindled in the last months.

A reasonable approach would be to have a historic review of revenue for the last year and an explanation of the rises and dips.

Additionally, questions could be asked and answered and creative solutions suggested.

Mayor Evans has said he’d like to see city employees and council members receive the 12.5 percent salary they gave up several months ago to make ends meet.

That’s fine.

The city has other needs brought to light by the proposed bond issue — failing equipment, lack of police cars, aging fire trucks.

Responsible budgeting, which includes constant planning and adjustment would help the city find its way from the red ink into the black.

There needs to be an accounting and soon of what has been spent and what will be spent in the next fiscal year.

Hurried in these economic times is not a wise fiscal move.