EDITORIAL: What are our community priorities?

May 30, 2014 

What happens when your bills are more than your income? Essentially, that’s what the Macon-Bibb County Commission is wrestling with in creating its fiscal 2015 budget. The mayor has certain priorities -- equalizing the tax bills between city and county taxpayers. A laudable goal for sure, but what’s on the table that is deemed not a priority? The Museum of Arts and Sciences, Tubman African American Museum, Douglass Theatre, adult literacy programs, Macon-Bibb County Economic Opportunity Office and Middle Georgia Community Food Bank are on that nonpriority list and the mayor has proposed eliminating the $857,200 that’s in the current year’s budget.

So what to do and what are the consequences? The Museum of Arts and Sciences would have to cut programs and people (the county is one of the museum’s trustees). The Tubman might have to punt entirely until it raises more funds. The Douglass (building owned by the county) would probably have to close. The other program cuts put at-risk communities in more jeopardy.

A budget, by its very nature, lays out a community’s priorities. If equalizing taxes is the prime directive, we’ll have to live with the consequences of a less vibrant, less appealing area.

However, it seems that somewhere in a $158.7 million budget, there might be a little room to wiggle $900,000. These are difficult decisions that the commission is charged in making.

The mayor’s call for compromise is welcomed. Will our community settle for fiscal austerity while the quality of life of the area takes a fatal hit? We will see.

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