Vail Daily’s View: County budget needs more than a scalpel
Vail, CO, Colorado
Eagle County officials are working right now on the 2010 budget, and everyone in that large organization responsible for asking for taxpayer money has some hard choices to make.
County Manager Kieth Montag has asked all department heads for no-growth budgets for 2010, and may ask for cuts of between 3 and 5 percent. That’s almost a good start.
We’ll acknowlege the difficulty of running an organization with a $100 million budget and hundreds of employees. But we think just asking for across-the-board cuts falls short in some areas, particularly public health and safety.
For instance, the county’s requests for various social services have gone up with the unemployment rate. Crime’s up, too. Do those departments really have to make cuts just as they’re being asked to do more?
Similarly, cutting the county road and bridge department budget means cutbacks in repairs and maintenance. We trust the people in that department to make a good priority list of what must be done and what might wait a year. But again, we’re getting into the realm of public safety.
The county’s ECO Transit bus system recently cut its service hours back to 2004 levels, which reflects the drop in its sales tax collections.
That might be a good idea for the county as a whole. It won’t be easy, but every county service and employee added since 2004 should go under the microscope.
The county’s TV station should be at the top of that list, if that money could be better spent on health and safety. Similarly, in a time when rental housing is plentiful, if not cheap, and the price of homes has fallen, it may be time to cut back the county’s housing department.
Those are hard decisions, and will affect people who, in large part, are hard-working, productive members of the community.
But how many other lives would be affected by making unwise cuts in departments that can ill afford them?
Vail Daily Editorial Board