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Our opinion: ‘Impossible question’ on a future

“The city population keeps decreasing,” Warren City Councilman John Wortman said during Monday’s meeting. “I don’t know if we’re going to be able to afford” the same level of service. “It’s an impossible question. I don’t know how to answer it.”

Wortman raised in public a question we’ve been pondering in private for a while.

And he should be commended for doing so because it’s a very difficult question to seriously consider, let alone act on.

The outflow of his question is one political minefield after another.

The city’s population continues to decline.

Costs continue to go up.

The lion’s share of the city’s budgetary expenses are people — the public servants that provide the 24/7 police and fire coverage city residents have come to expect; the public servants that run the sewer plant and plow the streets; the public servants that run the city’s ambulances.

They all have our utmost respect and this dialogue is by no means a reflection on their work for the community.

But it’s foolhardy to think the costs of these services are ever going to decline on their own.

So if the city wants to maintain the current expense side of the budget, it’ll require an increase on the revenue side — taxes, whether property or earned income.

And no one wants to pay more in taxes.

The timing of Wortman’s question is important. The city doesn’t have it’s back to the wall to a degree where draconian cuts are needed in the 2022 budget which will be approved in a couple weeks’ time.

It is a question, however, that’s visible on the horizon. We believe it’s much better to start the conversation now — regardless of where it leads — when a decision isn’t needed tomorrow.

City residents are going to have to make a tough call — maintain the level of service and see an increase in taxes or accept a cut in those services to avoid seeing higher tax bills.

The real challenge in Wortman’s question is that, frankly, it’s probably impossible for the city to both ways.

Bringing the issue to the table as Wortman did probably isn’t politically expedient.

But it’s a question the next City Council will most likely have to address.

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