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Our opinion: Sounding an alarm for 2021

Municipal officials across the country are pleading with federal lawmakers to pass a stimulus package that includes direct funding for local governments.

Warren is no different.

Last week, City Manager Nancy Freenock wrote that plummeting tax revenues and unemployment have created a $750,000 decrease in projected revenues for Warren — or roughly 6%. The city is currently OK from a cash flow perspective, Freenock said.

A federal aid package is necessary for local governments. We hope that federal politics is laid aside and that lawmakers realize that without a stimulus package, services people count on will be eliminated. Even if the federal aid doesn’t cover the entire shortfall, stimulus would make the gap more manageable. Local governments couldn’t possibly have forecast this financial calamity, so aid is warranted now.

If a federal aid package is approved, Freenock and Warren City Council members should be extremely cautious with spending.

One doesn’t issue the warning Freenock issued last week while similarly spending money unnecessarily. Projects that aren’t essential should be set aside until the financial crisis is over.

As we look ahead to 2021, Warren and every other layer of government in Pennsylvania should assume that revenues will decrease from pre-2020 levels. COVID-19’s financial impact on local governments is not likely to be a one-year blip on the fiscal radar, and there is no guarantee that future federal aid is going to be available. After all, the federal deficit isn’t getting any smaller.

Now is the time to be conservative with the taxpayers’ money. Government isn’t the only one struggling through this pandemic, and this is a bad time for many taxpayers to get hit with exorbitantly higher tax bills too.

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