October 21, 2012

Our View: Budget outlook welcome change

— For local government employees, budget talks this year have been a welcome change.

Both city and county councils in recent years have seen themselves struggling to make ends meet. They’ve been forced to eliminate positions and freeze wages. Like many in the private sector, government workers who had been accustomed to annual raises found themselves feeling fortunate just to have jobs.

That all changed this year.

Cass County Council members approved a budget calling for raises of 5 percent. It was the first time since 2009 that county employees had received a raise.

Logansport City Council members followed up last week by approving a budget that provides an across-the-board 2 percent pay raise next year along with a $1,000 bonus this year. On top of that, the council granted police and firefighters another $1,200 annually in exchange for the elimination of holiday pay.

In addition, they approved for selected individuals whose salaries they believed to be low in comparison to those in similar positions.

Having the ability to make that sort of change is a good thing. It’s important for city and county government to be able to pay employees a competitive wage. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Wage freezes should never be more than a temporary measure.

Year after year without a raise leads to low morale and higher turnover, and in the end, the taxpayers who rely on those public employees for government services come out on the losing end.

We do hope, though, that officials have not gotten carried away with raises.

The atmosphere in budget talks from one year to the next has been like night and day. We hope projections surrounding this year’s budget consideration don’t prove overly optimistic.

Still, we’re glad to see the transformation.

No one likes seeing cutbacks in either the public or private sector. These are people’s livelihoods we’re talking about, and it will be good to see local residents with some more money in their pockets.

State officials, too, are projecting brighter times in 2013, and Indiana lawmakers are talking about the possibility that they, too, might be looking at increased spending next year.

We welcome the brighter outlook, and we hope to see that optimism spread to the economy as a whole.