County Funds: Surplus must be expected

Hold the applause, please.

The 2012 fund balance for Chautauqua County, which indicated a surplus of $5.8 million, is not an outcome to be cheered. It is something residents and taxpayers must begin to expect.

“Each and every time we determined a better, more efficient or more effective way to deliver this work, we have made the necessary changes to capitalize on these improvements,” County Executive Greg Edwards said last week.

County government is anything but “efficient” at this time. With more than 1,300 employees and welfare-to-work numbers below the state average, our government is traditionally slow and ineffective in responding to the quick-changing ways of society.

This results in red ink for our governments, something far too many Americans and local residents seem to tolerate. It begins when constituents hear their leaders’ tales of doom and gloom.

Ultimately, they begin to accept that operations will show a loss, especially when many consider the Chautauqua County Home and federal government. School districts, those with less than 600 in enrollment, are also close to reaching a tipping point when it comes to running out of money.

But just because governments and many of the local organizations that do so much good for so many who need the assistance are non-profits, it does not mean those agencies are supposed to lose money. Budgets are made to be balanced.

Those agencies – and governments – that show a negative fund balance cannot continue down this path in an era of tight budgets. If finances cannot be brought in line, dissolution or mergers need to be considered by these boards.

Anything else is not fair to the stakeholders – the residents who are counted on for their donations and expected to pay their taxes on time or face a penalty.

There are, however, no penalties for governments and agencies which cannot maintain their bottom line and spend even though the cash well is dry.

That must change.