This week, we editors are wondering if during the last gubernatorial campaign, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D-Logan) didn't lull us voters into a misinterpreted and fantasy dream that the state was in such good financial shape that taxpayers didn't have anything to worry about?
Didn't the Governor state that compared with the other 49 states, West Virginia's conservatively operated government was one of only a handful of state governments in these United States that wasn't faced with budgetary woes, shortfalls or deficits? We editors believe that our recollections are correct!
Right now, and to the contrary of the Governor's once rosy picture of our state of the state's financial well-being, there are noises of budgetary crunches coming from the Statehouse in Charleston all the way down through state government agencies to the Courthouses in the state, including Gilmer County's.
In fact, Governor Tomblin, in using his line item veto option, cut out $67 million from the state's fiscal 2014-2015 budget, of which had been recommended to him by the State Legislature's Finance Conference Committee. To balance next year's budget, the legislators have urged the Governor to take $147 million out of the state's Rainy Day Fund. (Does this sound like we're financially strong?) With caution to his back, Mr. Tomblin sensed that this special fund is to be used ostensibly only in state disaster emergencies. Moreover, if raided this year, would the legislators also lean upon it in the following 2015-2016 state budget, as well. The Rainy Day Fund must be kept at 15 percent of the state's general revenue budget, and the projected draw downs would lower it to an unacceptable 11 percent, according to statewide news reports.
To make up the approximately $80 million difference between legislature's recommended $147 million Rain Day reduction vs. the governor's $67 million cut, Mr. Tomblin is reducing expenses that will be felt all the way down to Gilmer and the state's other 54 counties. Those cuts are to be as follows: $41 million in Lottery subsidies, $5 million in Medicaid waivers for in-home care for seniors and the disabled, $1.0 million from local Economic Development (EDA) Assistance grants, $150,464 from local Family Resource Networks (FRN), $400,000 for grants to the Domestic Violence Programs and Statewide Prevention, $200,000 from the Child Advocacy Centers and $231,250 for grants to the West Virginia Tech-Connect and Tamarack Foundation projects.
Note that most of the governor's cuts were sliced out of the budgets of the most underfunded social and economic betterment agencies that serve the local communities, the poor and disadvantaged people within the Mountain State. Is this how West Virginia's State Government brags about keeping itself "in the black," while the other states are running deficits?
Doesn't our state's once "efficient" state government and its avowedly sound and "in the black" finances begin to take on a less noble color now?
In addition, what if the state's revenues continue to decline? Already, the city of Glenville learned at its recent March 3 meeting that if its citizens don't pay their property taxes this year, that city government will have a difficult time in balancing its current fiscal 2013-2014 budget. As a result, Mayor Dennis Fitzpatrick wisely placed a freeze on the city's spending for this fiscal year.
In looking around the state, the Roane County Commission is slashing $286,000 from its current budget, nixing all departmental and agency requests for funding to keep within its $2.7 million fiscal year budget. In addition, the Pleasants County Board of Education eliminated the lighting for the newly proposed baseball and softball fields and tennis courts in order to save $500,000. That lack sounds like the latter cuts will also diminish the educational instruction time for those high school athletes, so that financial trade-off isn't an ideal one, either.
Of course, many local financial problems are triggered by the State Legislature's lack of courage to make the necessary decisions and cuts. For example, the teachers get their raises, as do other groups, like the courthouse officials. It's ironic in Gilmer County that when the county commission is currently looking at reducing each department's personnel by one to stay within the county's budget, at the same time the elected officials are allowed to take a raise, which they opted to take, except for the commissioners. The latter officials point out that such an expense was not provided for in the fiscal 2014-2015 budget; however, the State Auditor has the final say on the county raises. That monetary gaff by legislators is due to a law they passed to satisfy the county officials and their lobbyists.
What's the real picture? The budgets of the state, its counties and cities are still like each taxpayer's checkbook. If there's enough money in it, then spending can take place. Hence, in government, if tax revenues are not high enough to fund expenses, then the checks can't be written.
Or, if they are in spite of causing a deficit, then taxes will have to be raised to fund the overdrafts.
Indeed, at this time when the state and its counties are trying to attract new industries with high-paying jobs, it is not the right time to place added tax burdens on our citizens or businesses ... to frighten off our new business prospects.
After all, it's bad enough that our shortsighted legislators gave out raises this past session when neither the state nor its counties could afford them. It's a no-brainer to give raises when governmental units are broke! Hence, for local officials to take advantage of this legislative gaff is being "penny-wise and a pound foolish."
With April's annual "West Virginia: Make It Shine" statewide clean-up on the near horizon, let's get going with it in Gilmer County.
Now that the weather is becoming clement (at times), there's no reason why we residents shouldn't get ready for our "Spring House Cleanings" and yard clean-ups. This will be a good start for making all of Gilmer County shine. Our beautiful countryside shouldn't be marred by roadside litter or unsightly clutter in yards.
In Glenville, much appreciation goes to Mr. Greg Smith, the owner of Smith Land Surveying and Smith Rentals, for razing many deteriorated houses and buildings in order to make way for modern, beautiful and affordable apartments and homes.
In past years, the Gilmer County Commission, City of Glenville and Glenville State College joined hands in helping out in these countywide clean-ups, all of which turned out to be very successful.
In particular, the Glenville State College's community service students have done a particularly splendid job of assisting our local governments in making Gilmer County "shine." So, let's get going!