Williamsport Mayor Gabriel J. Campana is indicating that without concessions from the city's unions, the city's budget is about to become unsustainable for taxpayers.
Whether you agree with his thinking matters less than the math, which says it all.
The city reportedly faces an increase of $1.7 million to meet its minimum pension obligation.
It's facing sharp increases in health care costs.
The fire and police departments comprise 68 percent of the city budget.
To avoid a tax increase, layoffs and outsourcing of services, something has to give.
The key numbers of the city budget are becoming unaffordable for Williamsport's limited tax base.
The fact is, whether it's the federal, state or local government, the pension and health care benefits of public employees are simply much more generous than those provided to private-sector employees.
We are not here to begrudge these employees their benefits, but the fact is, someone else is paying for those benefits and they are no longer sustainable.
And in cities such as Williamsport, these salaries, benefits, pensions and health care costs make up such a high percentage of the budget that there is no way to solve a budget problem without addressing them.
Given the situation, this is a rare time when we can understand a tax increase, unless the key elements of the city's budget are changed significantly.
At the very least, all of the city's unionized personnel should be paying the $500 deductible the city police pay on their medical coverage. And unionized personnel hired today should be under pension and retirement rules that more closely resemble the terms the private sector works under.
We understand the need for public unions and how essential their original founding was. Many years ago public sector workers made significantly less money than private sector employees and generous benefits were a way to reward public servants for their career choices. But today's reality is that most public employees have salaries and benefits that outpace those of the taxpayers in the private sector who are paying for them and it is time for some concessions.
Desperate times require desperate measures. The unions and administration need to talk frankly and openly now about what changes can be made in current labor agreements to bring the city's costs to a point where layoffs and hefty tax increases can be avoided.
And, if it hasn't already happened, the administration and council's finance committee need to start looking closely at drastic changes in the city's budget for next year to avoid a financial crisis.