Our Opinion: Chart Luzerne County’s progress at following its financial-recovery plan

October 17th, 2016 12:45 pm

Would it be a good idea to …

… show people what actions have been taken – and what tasks remain to be done – to put Luzerne County’s government on better financial footing?

Last October, a consulting firm handed the county administration an updated five-year financial recovery plan. The 253-page plan from Philadelphia-based Public Financial Management, or PFM, contains dozens of suggestions for conserving cash and bringing in even more revenue – beyond the well-worn tactic of raising property taxes.

Why not post this to-do list on the county’s website, putting a check mark next to each item as it gets completed?

Doing so would offer several benefits. For starters, it could build public confidence that the county manager and 11 elected council members are exhausting all the best options to narrow the budget deficit before resorting to further tax increases.

County Manager C. David Pedri last week released a draft 2017 budget that includes a 4 percent property tax increase, plus a new $5 fee on vehicles registered in the county. To get buy-in from county residents, it would help if the county proudly demonstrated it has made good-faith efforts to follow the recovery strategy.

Moreover, posting the plan’s recommendations and a visual guide as to where each stands (using designations such as “completed,” “in the works” and “awaiting action”) would pinpoint trouble areas. Has the county manager acted on all the budget-balancing tasks over which he has sole control, or have some fallen through the cracks?

Has a council majority authorized the recommendations under its purview; if not, why not? (In some cases, there could be very legitimate reasons.) And what other entities – unions, for instance, or tax-exempt organizations in the county – might be delaying the successful implementation of a reasonable change?

PFM’s suggestions made to the county last year, many of which have been raised before, run the gamut from reducing payments to elected tax collectors, to increasing worker health-care contributions, to seeking advertising revenue.

Do you know how many of the suggestions the county has followed? Would you like to know?

Give us your feedback by sending a letter to the editor or posting comments to this editorial at timesleader.com.

Likewise, tell us your ideas for improving the community. Maybe we’ll spotlight your suggestion in a future editorial and ask readers, “Would it be a good idea to …”

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