Homeland committee looks for budget cuts
“We’re in big trouble unless we cut the town budget by 15 per cent,” announced Homeland Security Committee Chair Ork Dorken as the last of the volunteer members gathered in the community hall for the midwinter meeting.
“That’s impossible,” countered Einar Stamstad. “We’re already down to the bone.”
“Well, Little Jimmy has the facts and we’re in for a hard 10 years,” Ork responded.
“The census figures are out,” Little Jimmy explained as he rose to his feet, “and we lost three residents since 2000 and that means we will be getting $300 less in state aid every year for the next 10 years.”
“Who left town?” Orville Jordan asked, as he scratched his head to stir his thinking cells.
Very few remembered and were relieved when Josh Dvorchek spoke up.
“Just give us a rundown on the budget. What accounts do we have?” Josh asked.
“Two accounts,” replied Little Jimmy. “$40 for animal control and $1650 for miscellaneous.”
“What is this animal control business?” Einar Torvald queried.
“It’s food for Dawg,” Little Jimmy explained. “Dawg gets out of control when he’s hungry.”
“$1650 for miscellaneous doesn’t tell us much,” Einar grumbled. “What kind of miscellaneous are we buying?”
“Graveling streets, lighting streets, plowing snow and the dump ground, that’s it . . . no frills government.” Little Jimmy replied.
“Do we have any of this here “discretionary” spending we can cut?”
“Only the $40 for Dawg,” responded Jimmy.
“Couldn’t we get Dawg on food stamps, him being a town dependent and all,” Old Sievert asked.
Disregarding Old Sievert, Garvey spoke up. “How about shutting down the two street lights on the west side of the tracks? Nobody lives over there anymore.”
“That would be the same as saying we are one dying town,” objected Holger Danski.
“We are one dying town,” Garvey shot back heatedly. “If there were two of us, we’d be two dying towns.”
“Maybe we could rotate the street lights,” proposed Orville Jordan. “Back street one week, front street one week, and so on. Don’t need street lights in summer. Everybody’s in bed before the sun goes down, anyway.”
“How about taking a free will offering?” suggested Einar.
Ork rolled his eyes as he turned his head toward the ceiling.
“How about raising the property tax?” Holger asked.
“I checked that out,” Little Jimmy reported. “Our taxable valuation is so small we would need 60 mills to raise the $300.”
“Holy smoke! 60 mills!” Madeleine exclaimed.
“Actually, the town is worth more as farmland,” Jimmy added.
“Maybe we could just cut all the red tape and assess everybody nine cash bucks a month,” Einar suggested.
“That’s a job-killing idea,” Garvey scolded. “When industry finds out we have assessments, they won’t locate here.”
“They’ve had over a hundred years and haven’t showed up yet so I wouldn’t fret about that,” Madeleine said.
“Looks to me like this is a long range problem that needs a long range look so I’m going to appoint a blue ribbon fiscal committee to solve this and then we’ll have one of those summit meetings to vote on it,” Ork announced as he rapped his scarred Coke bottle to adjourn the meeting.
They shuffled out into the cold north wind, realizing that the next 10 years would be tough.
Omdahl is a UND professor emeritus in political science and a former lieutenant governor of North Dakota.
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