The Havelock Board of Commissioners and Mayor Jimmy Sanders entered public office to serve the residents of this city.
We wonder if they were fully aware of the challenges they would face. After all, by all accounts, they appear to have some very tough decisions ahead of them in terms of the proposed 2013-14 budget.
First, we appreciate their scrutiny of the budget. During Monday’s budget work session, they started going line by line looking for opportunities to cut expenses. All of this was done in an attempt to avoid a 2-cent property tax increase for residents.
The commissioners and Sanders have said they oppose the 2-cent increase, saying the poor economy is already hurting residents and that a tax increase would simply add to the pain.
Some residents may not think that paying an extra 27 bucks (on a typical Havelock home) over the course of a year is that big of a deal. We worry about the cumulative effect. A few bucks this year and then a few bucks next year, and next thing you know, it adds up to real money, to paraphrase a famous quote often attributed to Everett Dirksen, who served in Congress for more than 30 years.
Though there is some debate on whether Dirksen actually coined the quote so often attributed to him, we think he would be proud of what the board is attempting to do. Dirksen was a fiscal conservative in every sense, and quite a character on top of that.
He would spin stories while voicing opposition to federal budget proposals and bills in the House and Senate. A simple quote from the Congressional record dated May 3, 1961, summarizes his position: "But the basic difficulty still remains: It is the expansion of federal power, about which I wish to express my alarm. How easily we embrace such business."
On a much smaller scale, the Havelock board is attempting not to expand its reach into the pockets of residents, and we applaud their efforts. The difficulty rests in how to do that.
During Monday’s meeting, city officials discussed cutting the number of city workers to save money. They also discussed furloughs for all city employees. We don’t think the furloughs would be as extreme as those proposed on the federal level, but no doubt they would have an impact on the city’s 125 or so workers.
The board doesn’t want to cut positions or result to work furloughs. On Monday night, they made some cuts and then put the budget back in the hands of City Manager Jim Freeman and his staff to find other cuts to expenses in an attempt to avoid the tax increase.
Sanders and the board are simply doing what they were elected to do — to serve the interests of the residents of Havelock.
In that sense, Dirksen, a one-time city council member who went on to represent Illinois in the House and Senate, would be proud.
"Here as elsewhere," he said on Feb. 5, 1954, "any answer to the problem of generating the best kind of local government begins with a deep sense of pride in the community and with a sharpening of that proprietary feeling that the community does belong to the citizens."