Less predictable 2017 county budget talks heartening

Votes for the Lycoming County budget are normally a formality, a rubber stamp that happens in early December to meet public notice guidelines.

And discussion of details of the plan, despite its size and the operational deficits of recent years, have often been minimal.

Not so this year.

There’s been open dialogue and plenty of disagreement on major portions of the spending plan, including debate over the future of the GEO Reentry Center, where a contract with the private management firm for the facility is up for renewal.

And the commissioners delayed the approval of the budget, scheduled for last week, until Thursday.

Commissioner Chairman Jack McKernan said the added week spent examining multiple details of the spending plan will lead to a budget that is “a little prettier.”

By that he meant additional savings that were previously missed might be found.

He cautioned that the county’s budget deficits – the new one showed a $9.6 million operational deficit last week – won’t be eliminated overnight.

Complete elimination of the budget deficit takes a year-round examination of the county’s spending and operations, which the commissioners promised to follow through on in 2017.

We doubt the budget the commissioners are likely to approve tomorrow will satisfy county taxpayers.

We certainly are not happy about the continued operational deficits the county is running. That must end.

But taxpayers should be heartened that the budget issue is getting genuine examination and discussion, the kind of detailed spotlight that should be expected of the county’s chief elected leaders.

We believe this eventually will pay dividends in grounded decisions that will save the county money and allow it to operate more efficiently based on the most practical operations possible.

That’s what residents deserve. As long as the commissioners are headed in that direction, a little trust and patience is in order, even if the short-term product is not what many would hope for.