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Local government agencies will have tough decisions

“This is serious.”

That’s the word from Lycoming County Commissioner Tony Mussare in summing up the fiscal situation heading into 2021.

So serious, he said, that cutting personnel to meet the budget has not been ruled out.

While we do not like to hear about staff cuts, we also do not like the record unemployment that has been foisted upon us as a society because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Businesses have been jeopardized. Even without officials informing us of budgeting difficulties — and that’s putting it mildly, we suspect — common sense tells us of a corresponding and significant drop in tax revenues as a result of furloughs and lost jobs. The budget dilemmas do not apply just to the operations of Lycoming County but to all levels of government.

That means decreased tax revenues for counties, school districts, municipalities and townships, as well as state and federal governments.

It is not uncommon for government at any level to increase taxes to support their operations when the bottom line comes up short.

But this year is different.

With so many people out of work for the past six months, it would be cruel to raise taxes before we, as a society, have had a chance to rebuild our economy and begin to recover from the heavy blow that 2020 has dealt.

Likewise, government cannot operate without strong personnel who are willing to go the extra mile and handle additional duties, just as has been done in the private sector while struggling to survive during shutdowns and occupancy limits.

Nobody likes the corporate trend of doing more with less, but that’s been the reality of the technology-enabled 21st century to date. That trend has become even more pronounced during the pandemic.

The sad news is that the pandemic is far from over. We are told to expect a second wave. There have been many sacrifices so far, and there will be more, for sure.

While we brace for the unknown, we need to work. We must forge ahead without surrender.

It will take dedication and hard work on many fronts — private and public — to rebuild.

But it is what we must do.

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