In the immortal words of Jerry Reed, the Forsyth County Commission has “a long way to go and a short time to get there,” when it comes to approving next year’s budget.
Given the task at hand, you can understand why approval of a spending plan for 2010 has, as Commissioner Patrick Bell noted last week, come down to the 11th hour.
There are no easy decisions to be made. Despite furloughs, staff cuts and reductions in spending throughout the government, budget proposals still show expenditures outpacing revenues by $2 million to $3 million.
The county does have some reserve money available, but using that money to fund the operational budget eliminates any safety net for emergency expenses.
With no assurances that the economy is going to bounce back to increase revenues beyond projected levels, commissioners face the task of deciding how much more they can cut expenditures while still providing essential services.
It’s not as simple as across-the-board cuts for all departments.
Cutting deeply into budgets for the courts, for example, may mean that prisoners sit in jail longer, thus driving up expenses for the sheriff’s office. Similarly, cutting funds from planned road projects may save money now, but result in a bigger negative economic impact long-term.
Commissioners will hold their first public hearing on the budget proposal at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 3 in their meeting room at the county administration building, at which time the spending plan for next year will be made available for review and comments.
Now is the time to let your elected representatives know what you consider to be essential priorities for county funding — and what you would be willing to do without in order to balance the budget for county government.