Be careful what you wish for. Last year, we hoped Payson would start issuing regular financial updates — to avoid any more nasty budget surprises once the swayback nag of plunging revenue had kicked open the barn door and run off.
Fortunately, the new town finance manager had come up with the first quarterly update.
And it made our heads hurt until we figured it out —then it made our stomachs churn.
Turns out, we ain’t out of the woods — despite the big cuts made in the current budget. In fact, we’re wandering about ever so slightly lost — trying to figure out what direction that whiff of smoke is coming from.
Two years ago, the town predicted something like a 10 percent increase in revenues — and ended up blowing its reserves when revenues proved essentially flat. This year, the town predicted essentially flat revenues — but actual receipts are lagging. The sickening economy seems to have forestalled even the modest gains in bed, sales and building taxes the town hoped to collect.
So three months into the year, Finance Director Doug Hill is warning the town may have to cut spending by hundreds of thousands of dollars by the end of the year.
Still, best to know now — than to wait like last year until all the reserves are gone and it’s too late to make modest changes early instead of drastic changes late.
Granted, we hope the form of the report will evolve so that ordinary people can understand it, without hiring a psychic accountant.
But this report represents a great step forward in giving the council the tools it needs to get a compass bearing on home, even as the smoke gathered in the forested swales.