The budget talks are under way not just for the City of Williamsport but also for boroughs and townships throughout the region.
And as those talks unfold, some themes emerge.
Hopefully, one of the themes is holding the line on taxes, which South Williamsport, Montoursville, Hughesville and Old Lycoming Township did this past week.
But that's no easy task. Whether the budget is $6.3 million South Williamsport or $804,920 Hughesville or $20.4 million Williamsport, it's tight.
"Barebones" was the word used by Michael D. Miller, South Williamsport borough manager.
Relatively speaking, almost all of the boroughs and townships have police protection costs that are a heavy influence on budgets.
All the municipalities have infrastructure needs often sewer and street upgrades and improvements that never end.
What the municipalities don't have, other than Williamsport, are salary and benefits costs for firemen.
If you get nothing else out of the battery of budget stories you will be reading in the coming weeks, appreciate those volunteer firemen in your community. Think about what it would cost to provide an adequate level of fire protection if they were not volunteering to provide that protection. Volunteer firemen are truly community servants and hometown heroes.
We, of course, want every borough and township to balance its budget without a tax increase.
But it must be acknowledged how difficult that is becoming. Big and small, these municipalities have employee health care costs to deal with, snow to remove, unforeseen disasters to deal with and capital improvement needs that outpace available revenue.
All we can ask of municipal officials is a sincere effort to establish the correct spending priorities, manage budgets frugally and provide necessary services to taxpayers and residents, always with an eye toward keeping the tax bill within reason.
That's a tough list. But a necessary one.
And we thank the often forgotten local elected officials who strive to meet that checklist.