County long-term changes need a lengthy review

There was open disagreement as the Lycoming County commissioners approved the 2019 budget.

With good reason.

The county budget is a no-tax-increase plan that includes deficit spending and shrinking surplus.

It rests heavily on a bond issue to balance expenses and revenues. Continuation of the trend will mean big fiscal problems for Lycoming County in the future.

Commissioner Rick Mirabito voted against the budget, saying the better course would have been to spend two weeks reviewing potential staff reorganization and other changes in accordance with an early intervention program.

The program, which gives an overview of county operations and how they compare with other counties, is due to be completed in January and presented to the public at that time.

The better course, in our view, would be to wait for completion of the report, take public input and, if it is believed the report is credible, spend a lot more than 15 days looking into changes that will make Lycoming County government more fiscally sound in the future.

But we do agree with Commissioner Mirabito that something needs to be done to change the county’s budget trendline.

The need is exacerbated by the big-ticket items the county has taken on in the coming year – a 911 radio system overhaul, a state-mandated voting machine replacement program, a contribution of $1 million for the Williamsport levee recertification, and another $1 million set aside for a very necessary upcoming countywide property reassessment.

The county also has an ongoing battery of obligations to the Community Arts Center, Lycoming County Historical Society and library system that cannot – and should not – be discontinued, in our view.

And it needs to decide if it wants to remain in the public golf course operations business.

Something clearly needs to be done.

But a two-week, interim hurry-up action is not the way to go.