To fund its $45.1 million budget in 2010, Whitfield County commissioners will spend $7.1 million in county reserves, the second straight year commissioners have been unable or unwilling to balance their budget without tapping reserves.

At least that’s the spending plan unveiled this week.

Now for the good news. The county has not yet approved the plan and still has an opportunity to look for more savings, which seems like a reasonable expectation with the county mired in an economic slowdown that has shuttered businesses and idled more than 10 percent of the workforce.

Instead of retrenching, the county plans to spend more next year. The proposed 2010 budget is up from the current year fiscal plan, which calls for $43.8 million in expenditures. Most departments will operate with about the same money they had last year.

If the county goes ahead with its $45.1 million spending plan, it will reduce its reserve balance to $13.3 million, effectively slicing it in half in two years.

That is not welcome news.

The county has been down this road before, as Chairman Mike Babb and Commissioner Harold Brooker — both commission veterans — surely know. Commissioner Babb said this week the county could face a “day of reckoning” if the deficit spending continues.

Good. He gets it.

So, what do he and his cohorts on the commission plan to do about it?

Citizens concerned about future tax increases need to ask their elected officials what they are doing now to avoid future budget woes.

Hopefully, the economy will get better soon. But commissioners would be fools to bet our future on little more than optimism.

The Daily Citizen

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