Our opinion: Surprise! Here’s the bill

There is an old saying: Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.

The taxpayers of the City of Warren – and for that matter, those of the Warren County School District – might be justified in using it with regard to some big ticket expenditures both pieces of government are undertaking now or planning to undertake.

The City: Apparently the Warren City Municipal Building is falling apart, its picturesque cupola grown mushy, its council chambers shabby, its basement firing range full of spent rounds (who would have thought?), and its sewer system backed up.

The price? A little more than $3 million to set it all right. But, not to worry, we can simply transfer the money from another project that we probably weren’t going to do anyway (don’t ask why). Where’s the money come from? Where else does government get money but from taxpayers. Some of it will come from city taxpayers, some from taxpayers from all across the state, what people in local government call “free” money. When states receive money from taxpayers from the federal government (taxpayers from all across the country) that’s called “free” money. And, when the federal government goes searching for money to send down that chain, more often than not that’s called deficit spending.

The school district: Over a period of decades, one of the county’s four high schools was allowed to deteriorate to the point that the place was simply a wreck. Its elderly middle school in Warren was exhibiting decrepitude. Also during that time a decline in population that showed no signs of stopping, let alone reversing, made it clear that the district had more schools in its total physical plant than it needed. A protracted and often chaotic battle ensued, threatening to break up the district. Enter a new superintendent and, voila, within weeks a plan was in place to restructure the entire district.

The price? A bit more than $30 million. But, not to worry, we can simply pay for it with special government bonds that underwrite the interest, what people in local government call “free” money. Of course, the principle on the bonds must be repaid by local taxpayers, and … you get the picture. The superintendent who came up with the plan is now gone (don’t ask).

We’re not saying that either our lovely City Building or our struggling school district aren’t in need of repair and improvement, but we have to ask who was watching the store during all of those years that things apparently went to wrack and ruin? Would it have not been better to recognize individual problems as they occured, rather than allow them to become so expensive and panic-inducing?

Now the city and the county and their respective taxpayers are painted into a corner and the emergency exit looks very pricey.