Newsmaker of the month: No planning in area budgets

This has been the year from hell. Due to something not even on our radar in late 2019, our nation, state and communities have been compromised.

Some may have expected some type of economic slowdown, but no one could have foreseen one of the most bizarre and volatile times of our life. As a number of shops have closed — or gone to limited hours — due to the coronavirus, others have flourished, especially the big-box or Internet distribution giants.

Here at home, we have seen some businesses go and others bravely open their doors. For everyone who is in the private sector, there are no guarantees. In fact, there are some worried another New York state shutdown could be looming.

Which is why how our governments and school districts are operating is a major cause for concern. Each budget year, residents are conditioned to hear just how tight and bare bones spending plans can be.

This year, we heard the same — while noting spending increases for many municipalities and local schools. It’s almost as though those who serve do not want to believe the economy is as fragile as it really is.

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, on a monthly basis, offers a grim picture. In his most recent report, the state official noted sales tax receipts down by $3 billion for October. “Revenues are down and New York continues to withhold billions of dollars in spending due to the fiscal impact of the coronavirus pandemic,” DiNapoli said. “Caution is needed because rising infection rates may force more shutdowns and even greater economic damage. Washington must respond with more economic stimulus, including real relief for state and local governments.”

Area officials are almost too giddy that the county sales-tax revenue is nearly the same as last year. That being said, if New York is suffering — we will too.

Budgets put together this year — in the midst of a pandemic — did nothing to slow spending. In fact, many plans raise taxes on already hard hit residents.

If elected officials thought this year was challenging, they obviously have not thought about 2021 or 2022. The virus has changed our life. It needs also change the way we run our governments and school districts.


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