Current budget issues not new, but what to do about it?

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Earlier this week, while trolling Facebook’s site for Erath County Rant and Rave, I noted that someone was requesting the establishment by the city council of a dog park, presumably in our main city park.  Later on, I met with someone unhappy with the cutbacks at the senior citizens center and wondering whether they could be restored.  These issues help show one of the challenges the current city council must face—how to cope with demands for new services while cutting back on current services.  They also show some of the obstacles citizens must face when requesting new services or restoration of old services.

The cuts in the spending on the senior citizens center were made necessary by the council’s need to find enough money to meet its obligation to spend more on economic development projects, as demanded by the voters when they passed Prop 1.  The only alternative to the spending cuts would be a small tax increase, which the city council would be most unwise to pass, given the state of public opinion on taxes at this time. 

Dr. Malcolm Cross
Dr. Malcolm Cross

Reading the request for a dog park, I as usual noted not only what was being said, but what was left unsaid as well.  Ignored by the proposed dog park’s advocates was any discussion of the costs of establishing and maintaining it, and the sacrifices necessary to get the money to pay those costs.  I have no idea what those costs might be.  But unless a dog park can be established and maintained for free, it will cost something, and spending more money on it will require even more cuts in current services, given that a tax increase is not a realistic option. 

Indeed, with or without a new dog park, the council will probably remain under growing pressure to cut more current services as inflation and the continuing demands for more economic development spending force belt tightening.  Add the quest for a new multipurpose center, and one can understand that neither a restoration of services in the senior citizens center nor the creation of a dog park is going to be easy.

This is not to say that those who desire service restoration or service creation should give up.  They have a perfect right to advocate their ideas before the city council, or by backing sympathetic candidates in next year’s municipal elections.  But they must nonetheless realize that to implement more spending on whatever they want will require more cuts elsewhere. 

Whether this is good or bad is in the eye of the beholder.  But given the public’s demand for more spending on economic development projects, coupled with its opposition to any tax increase, the cutting of current services and the rejection of proposals for new services unless at the expense of current services are the city council’s only rational courses of action at this time.

Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987.  His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

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