Local governments are facing challenging times as tax revenues falls sharply across the nation. To cope with the loss of income, towns and counties are considering a range of actions from cuts in services to tax increases. In Cambridge, MD., the City Council last week voted to cut the salary of its elected members by 10% as that board starts on the difficult task of cutting services, increasing taxes, or finding efficiency opportunities. We congratulate Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley and the Commissioners of Cambridge for taking this step, which sets the right tone for managing the recession.
Having watched the Mayor Commissioners of the Town of Elkton for most of 2008, it appeared, long before the economy slipped into a deep, deep recession, that the town was going to face challenges balancing its budget. We were often surprised by the depth of these early financial signals and now wonder how the Board has been affected by a far steeper decline than they anticipated. In fact, at a spring 2008 budget setting meeting when there were tentative signs of a housing downtourn and layoffs one commissioner commented that it was only going to be brief and should be much better for the next fiscal year. At the time it made us wonder, which financial papers they were reading for it was not what we were seeing in the Economist, the Wall Street Journal and other sources.
During the year we only noted two commissioners addressing the burden that is created for Elkton taxpayers, Commissioners Storke and Givens. The other board members were either silent or supported new, costly proposals. (One of those very costly proposals was the reason this blog was launched, but there were others.) Perhaps we missed the attempts of other board members to control costs and we’re open to posting additional information here if there are missed observations. We have some illuminating audio that illustrates this point and we’ve found that the in their own word pieces best provides insight on board actions. We may post some of those latter and let you hear their voices. It is most informative.
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to watch the Mayor and Commissioners work to balance the budget for the upcoming fiscal year and select solutions that are going to be challenging.