OUR OPINION: Smaller budget nice, but not all good news

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

In this age of rising costs for just about everything  (thankfully, gas is finally going below $3 per gallon in some places), it’s good to see that government is not always above the problems of its people.

Thursday, Parish President Tommy Martinez unveiled to the Parish Council a proposed $92.4 million budget for 2009. In this age of rising costs and bloat in government, Martinez and his staff created a proposed budget that comes in $26 million less than the amended 2008 budget.

What??A parish budget under $100,000 in this day and age, especially in the fastest growing parish in the state?

You heard right. In the current economic climate, we are all having to tighten our belts a bit. The same seems to be holding true for our government, cutting costs in various departments and finding ways to transfer funds to areas in need. While calling for new and cost-cutting programs as well as alterations to current operations, the parish’s administration seems to have found ways to spend less of our tax dollars and still hopefully accomplish their goals.

Martinez and parish CAO Cedric Grant laid out an ambitious agenda Thursday. One of the most ambitious ideas is delaying any new road construction projects for the year and focusing those funds on renovations to Hwy. 42 and Hwy. 73, major traffic arteries in need of expansion.

Martinez said that the move was necessary so that the parish could finally begin to relieve traffic congestion on these roads. Since the state can’t seem to get around to doing it, it seems the parish has to roll up its sleeves and take care of business itself.

Another positive is that the parish will place a one-time budgeted amount of $750,000 into the ailing recreation budget to improve parish parks. While this total is nowhere near enough to truly bring the department where it needs to be, it’s the sign of a start in the right direction.

Don’t start clapping your hands about this proposed budget just yet, though. While we are happy to see a government actually go down in spending, the reasoning behind the cuts is not all flowers and sunshine. With the economy possibly nearing that dreaded “R” word, the parish really has no choice but to get out the scissors and cut some items.

And don’t forget that this budget still has to be scrutinized by the council in committee before it is finalized later this month. After council members get their red pens out, the proposal may look nothing like the budget presented Thursday. It could be better... or worse.