As local entities, including city, county, and school district approach real time budget deficits, each must decide on, and tailor, a workable strategy that will enable them to advance manageable solutions, and not encourage or enable them to become entrapped in dead end governance that offers no movement towards resolution. A framework for results must be soon forthcoming with fiscal survival at stake.
There is compelling persuasive evidence that for too long our entities have experienced a mindset likened to kicking a can down the road. Within the city, for example, several decades of not making tough or unpopular decisions, and not setting necessary spending priorities, particularly practicing realistic spending practices.. The lack of regular investment in critical infrastructure maintenance and improvement and capital equipment is the most blatant example. Both neglects can have the outcome of bringing municipal operations and public services to a halt. Also a definite disincentive for economic development by companies.
It is imperative that in the coming weeks and months that our local entities create a process to address the critical financial dilemma. For the city of Alice, any such plan should include the following proposed essential components.
1. The naming of a select panel of local business, financial. Civic representatives other community leadership to critically review the past and existing fiscal facts and conditions ,and to advise city leaders on a structure and format for laying out options for consideration.
2. This group would consult with city council and administration on the circumstances and decisions that led to this financial predicament, and offer alternatives to avoid further erosion of the city's fiscal condition and integrity. There must be continuous collaboration with department directors and other stakeholders regarding proposals and weighing options.
3.This panel must carefully examine all aspects of the municipality’s tax base, revenue status. service delivery expense needs, and the effects of long term benefit and other fringe obligations, as well as impacts of long term indebtedness liabilities and debt service costs. All of these are important factors in developing responses to the deficit problem and future direction of city government.
4. Whether it is city council or any advisory group, there must be full and immediate access and study of vital documents including audit reports, financial statements, and other pertinent records regarding financial reporting and decision making. Financial information must be well documented and verifiable.
5.The lack of adequate internal controls has been a troubling lingering issue that must be promptly and effectively responded to. Having reliable checks and balances in place is key to financial accountability.
Fiscal rebuilding will require a community wide commitment to transparent and complete and diverse conversations about structural change and alternatives to the way all of our governing bodies do business. Employee input on recommendations has to be a vital part of the deliberation procedure.
We have to demonstrate the willingness and fortitude to face the economic realities before us. They will not disappear by wishing them away or ignoring their existence. Responsible and responsive leadership calls for urgent action on behalf of our taxpayers . Nothing less can serve our interests. Most importantly, it must be an open and inclusive process that neither promotes nor cowers in regards to the interests of any particular group or faction. Our search must be for actions that represent the common good needs of this community, our families, and future growth.