Tough Calls And Missteps

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Great, cackling, flapping blood-spattered chickens have come home to roost. All right. Maybe they’re vultures.

The Payson council and the hard-working town employees last night gasped, sighed, teared up — and made a down payment on an overdue bill.

Specifically, the council approved a grim budget plan to adjust to a projected 16 percent shortfall in revenue.

We do not envy either the town council or Town Manager Debra Galbraith the responsibility they must now shoulder. We are grateful for their service to this community. None of them ran for council because they expected to let go worthy workers, cut town services and cope with an avalanche of complaints.

The current council got locked into a noisy, smelly chicken coop built by the previous council. The town blew through $3 million in reserves just before the hard times hit, all without a single financial update. That was inexcusable.

Now the virtually unprecedented national economic plunge has demonstrated just how foolish it is to spend your rainy day fund when the sun’s still shining.

Still, the current council must pay the bar tab on someone else’s binge.

We’re glad this council has addressed the problem head on. Most of the cuts approved last night appear grimly necessary — including layoffs in departments like the all but idled building and planning departments.

Still, we hope the council will not simply let the $4.5 million in cuts take effect without continued scrambling to find alternatives. For starters, we think the council made a mistake in rejecting the $300,000 loan from the cash-flush water department. The loan would buy precious time at a minimal cost.

We have grave concerns about the decision to cut all the part-timers, which will devastate booming recreation programs. Many of those programs are self-supporting.

In addition, Friends of Payson Parks and Recreation have already vowed to raise money to support those programs. Moreover, the town should explore boosting fees to make more of those programs self-supporting.

So we applaud the council for its diligence and willingness to make the tough call and we hope this represents the beginning of that process — and not the end point.

One thing about chickens — and vultures, for that matter — they need watching.

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