REGISTER VIEWPOINT: County should make austerity a habit

Let's stick with the austerity this time, and let's get the whole county on board. Erie County, faced with the same n
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

 

Let's stick with the austerity this time, and let's get the whole county on board.

Erie County, faced with the same need to tighten its belt as everyone these days, is looking to trim its payroll.

The cash cushion is less and less plump, and those in charge of the county coffers want to close the wound before the patient bleeds out.

So the county is dusting off its "austerity" policy, what most of us call living within budget. That includes the time-honored workplace practice of attrition -- which simply means someone who leaves his or her job isn't automatically replaced.

The policy was last in place from 2002 to 2005, and the county managed to reduce its workforce by 7 to 9 percent -- less than half of the 20 percent goal, but a reduction nonetheless.

The problem with the attrition policy was that the commissioners didn't have complete control -- they were responsible for funding, but had no control over staffing, departments overseen by other elected county officials. This could get especially contentious in protracted budget disputes with Sheriff Terry Lyons, who wants additional deputies for road patrol. The eternal budget battles between county commissioners and county judges at least abated somewhat under the somewhat more cooperative regimes of judges Tygh Tone and Roger Binette, which helped a little -- but even so, it was a continual seesaw between the sometimes competing needs to cut spending, enforce the law and administer justice.

So our call to arms for county officials is twofold:

n Cooperate to the best of your abilities to use the remaining county dollars wisely.

n Go back to the austerity policy as planned -- and consider making it, in philosophy at least, more of a standing practice than an emergency measure. "Do I really need that?" is a question many of us learn to ask ourselves as a matter of routine, in good times and bad, and few of us are really the poorer for it.