No easy decision

Published 8:39 am Friday, April 17, 2009

Just as municipalities all across the country are doing at this very moment, the Southampton County Board of Supervisors is faced with the unenviable task of trying to do more with less.

The board took a couple of steps toward finalizing their draft budget on Wednesday night. So far, there haven’t been any changes made to the 575-page budget detailing how the county will spend $56,885,219 next year. The board canceled a budget work session it had scheduled for April 22, believing that it can wrap up the draft budget at its regularly scheduled meeting on April 27.

But one thing is becoming very clear as the budget discussions go on: Unless it cuts spending, the county needs additional sources of revenue in the near future.

It seems like a done deal that the personal property tax in the county is going to go up from $4 to $4.50. The county still needs to call a public hearing first, but it appears board members have made up their minds and the hearing is just a formality. It’s probably a safe bet that a 2-percent transient occupancy tax will be enacted soon, too.

Less certain is the future of a proposed meals tax. Voters will have the final say on that one, and if an informal poll of county residents a few weeks ago is any indication it faces an uphill battle.

Still, the county board should be commended for looking into other ways of bringing in revenue without raising property taxes, including the idea of imposing a fee on households for solid waste disposal.

However, keep in mind that a bridge can be built to cross a chasm from both sides. We hope board members will keep this year’s budget discussions fresh in their minds all through 2009, and keep an eye on places where they could possibly cut spending in fiscal 2010.