Get ready for the pain

Summer should be a light-hearted season for fun – going to the lake, grilling out, traveling, etc. “Should be,” unfortunately, is an ideal, not a reality.

About a year ago, after discussions with city leaders, Minot Daily News warned readers that serious budget issues were on the horizon for the city and thus stakeholders.

It isn’t any better this year. In fact, it might be worse. It is essential for local taxpayers to know where things are headed in 2019.

Ward County has signaled that it will need additional funds to address its budget.

Local teachers are at an impasse in negotiations with the school district, while the budget is already busted.

Minot’s city administration, a conservative team that has done an excellent job trying to unravel the foolish mistakes of previous administrations, acknowledged that next year’s baseline needs are likely to exceed anticipated revenue.

These news notes in aggregate mean that local taxpayers are going to be in a pinch. Either we will enjoy the level of services we have now and pay more for them one way or another, or there will be a drop-off in services. There is no other option. Period. It’s sad, delusional even, to expect that tightening the belt at the city or county level will alleviate the challenge. To their credits, neither the current county administration (whatever its many ethical questions) nor the city can cost-cut their way to a balanced budget. It can’t happen without serious cutbacks in services.

That means the pain is coming. One way or another, local taxpayers are going to bear the brunt of this indisputable reality. It’s best that we acknowledge this now. Whether a sales tax hike, property tax hikes or service cutbacks, we are all going to experience financial pain in the year ahead.

Let’s just put that on the table. It isn’t going anywhere.

While this reality check might be tough, the solution to our situation is tougher. The only way out of our situation in the long term is economic growth. New residents, new taxpayers, new home buyers, new employees and new development are the way out of our current status. Growth solves most if not all economic challenges.

Do you see any signs of growth? It isn’t a criticism of local government to point out that there is little of that. It’s another reality we will have to one day deal with.

In the meantime, it is only reasonable to admit that we are in for some tough times before the nation’s newfound prosperity reaches North Dakota.