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Tunnel vision: Another budget done

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Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or cmcnickle@tribweb.com).

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Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, 9:05 p.m.
 

When elected municipal officials debate budget issues — which is really much of what they do — they rarely do it in a way that would encourage effective debate, either among themselves or with the public.

Why is that?

They may have political considerations. For example, cutting funds for street repairs or police or volunteer firefighters rarely resonates with the public.

This comes to mind as Ford City Council in the last week of January approved a no-tax-increase budget after failing by one vote to overturn the mayor's veto of an earlier fiscal plan that required a 1.5-mill property tax increase. To save money necessary to stave off the increase, the fire company agreed that council could apply a half-mill of the fire equipment tax to the general fund and police agreed to forgo budget funds for a new police car.

Councilman Jerry Miklos offered the one “no” in the 5-1 vote; he contends more can be cut, although he provided no specifics.

So four weeks into the new budget year, council prepares a tentative budget for a Feb. 11 vote. But rarely during the whole year does council conduct discussions about how it will save taxpayers' money.

Council President Lou Vegari said Monday the town has no fiscal cushion in the 2013 budget. Will it be the same next December — or will council see the light and the end of an ever-longer tunnel?

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