Editor's View

Tuesday, April 6, 2004

One we hate to see cut

The plight of county governments - from skyrocketing health insurance costs to plunging agland tax revenue - has been clearly lamented. And this time it isn't a Chicken Little case - the sky really is falling.

So it is no surprise that in Buena Vista County, all of the outside agencies, except for SLADC industrial development, took a little hit in the wallet. From the libraries to the county fair, they will have to tighten the belt for at least one year.

It's hard to argue with that philosophy, either. In fact, we have to applaud out county supervisors for doing what they don't want to do, but need to.

After all, these aren't just figures on paper - they are real taxpayer dollars being given away, and in lean times, it is not inappropriate to expect the agencies to share in the burden, just as county employees are being expected to do.

We won't use that term "nonessentials" that is so often thrown around - every agency that comes to the county is worthy. The BV Fair is a county jewel, the libraries are vital to the towns' social life as well as their educational opportunities, Northwest Aging provides priceless services to our seniors who have worked a lifetime to deserve it. Every cut now hurts.

All of the outside agencies are deserving of more support, if and when economic realities allow it.

But one cut being made by Buena Vista County is in fact shortsighted, I fear.

I'm not sure we can afford to nickel and dime Upper Des Moines Opportunity.

A library can perhaps trim hours a bit, or put off the purchase of a few books or a computer and get by for a while.

Cutting UDMO stands to take food out of people's mouths, clothes of people's backs, and possibly hurt the chances of some needy people to retain their homes in a few cases.

We're talking about our most fragile citizens here, and UDMO is one of very few safety nets.

It seems that UDMO makes very few dollars go a very long way ($14,381 from the county treasury this year to be exact). With minimal funding from area counties, communities and donors, it manages to always have shelves filled in the food pantry somehow, always find the funds for clothing for a needy child, always have the programs in place when utility bills threaten to put a family out of their home.

Upper Des Moines staff took the hit with a typically stiff upper lip; pledging to find other ways to make up any dollars they lose from strapped counties through more local fundraisers, searching for new grants, or any other means they can find. Hopefully, they said, all of the current services out of the Storm Lake office can be maintained. I hope they're right. Families are on the line.

Upper Des Moines has worked well for us - helping people back from the edge before they become a perpetual welfare burden, and in many cases helping them back on their feet to be contributing taxpayers.

Cities and counties - and the general public - are not equipped to replace their services.

It's going to be a tough year. The counties know it, and the taxpayers are finding it out the hard way. Buena Vista County is doing what it unfortunately needs to do in holding down salaries and cutting all possible expenses.

If there's one place we aren't sure that we can afford to cut, however, it may be the safety net that feeds those among us who need our help the most.