Make no mistake, the City of Williamsport's budget situation is daunting.
The budget being proposed for 2013 by Mayor Gabriel J. Campana is $21 million, up from $19.3 million this year.
Most of the increase can be laid at the feet of increasing health care and pension costs and an unfunded mandate to recertify the flood control levee, according to Mayor Campana.
His response to the situation is a plan that eliminates three police positions, restructuring of the fire department to eliminate 10 positions by 2015 and a decision to not fill two vacancies in the Streets and Parks Department.
Where the fire department is concerned, the mayor proposes using on-call, trained responders who would be paid a stipend when they do.
Can this work? Are these cuts going to leave city taxpayers and residents with adequate protection?
Those are tough questions.
And frankly, it's an open question whether this is enough protection for the city, particularly where the police are concerned.
But somehow, the city has to pay for ballooning health care and pension costs that won't be relenting in the future.
Somehow, the city has to keep from going bankrupt.
Is the solution concessions by city firemen and police? Maybe, but that won't happen unless the firemen and policemen agree to concessions and we can understand their reluctance to do so.
If none of what the mayor is proposing can work, then somebody has to come up with another workable solution that keeps the city from being buried in debt. And that solution can't just be more taxes. City taxpayers are stretched razor thin from what they pay in school, municipal and other taxes.
City Council receives the proposal this week. Our hope is that council members will have some of their own ideas on how the city can improve its budget situation.
And just as vitally, if council members have such ideas, the mayor and the administration need to listen in a spirit of cooperation.
It's going to take a group effort to get the city out of this financial mess and keep it from joining other cities in fiscal ruin.