Opinion

The excitement of budget time doesn’t necessarily invigorate the electorate quite like a competitive national election. That doesn’t mean the importance of the coming weeks should be diluted to the general consensus of boredom.

This is the time where the meat of government happens. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivered her first Condition of the State address this week, while our local municipalities this month have started mapping out the fiscal year 2019 budget. If pouring through endless data about tax rates, fund balances and solvency doesn’t deliver hysteria to your emotions, then you likely have more of a life than I do.

So this time of year isn’t exactly the most spell-bounding time, at least for local governments. It does create good storylines, but it involves delving into complicated budgets and figuring out the best way to run government.

And when you look past the posturing and immediate reactions to certain issues, this is the best time to start seeing how your local and state government will look for the foreseeable future.

Reynolds discussed several topics in her address this week, so it’s doubtful all of those issues will be resolved in 2018. But it provides a roadmap of what to expect in the upcoming session, like tax reform, water quality and improving the educational level of the workforce. Without these next few weeks, that speech is just talk.

And that’s why the winter months in Iowa are so important for our future.

Locally, area city councils are deciding how the budget will work with implementing certain projects, staffing levels and maintaining city functions.

The Clinton Herald was at the first of those discussions this week regarding the ever-present discussion of the sewer fund. You’d be hard-pressed to find a community where that fund is dissected more often than Clinton.

It’s been a constant thorn in the side of city government for years. Previous councils didn’t touch the infrastructure related to the sewer system. The federal and state government got involved, forcing Clinton to update its aging sewer system.

That led to massive hikes in sewer rates and the problem isn’t going away. The city is once again discussing sewer rate increases for a town already hampered by some of the highest rates in the state of Iowa.

With a fund deficit nearing $1 million, though, the city’s hands are tied in how to reduce that amount.

What these discussions highlight is how topics aren’t measured in complete black and white terms. There is a lot of gray when making decisions on the issues affecting our region. Sure, nobody wants to pay more in sewer rates, but the city is mandated to update the infrastructure and pay for those improvements. It’s a difficult decision that isn’t made through short soundbites or clever social media jabs.

It’s the same way on the state level, too. During her Condition of the State address, Reynolds mentioned the importance of broadband connectivity. Everybody basically agrees that’s a good thing, but where’s the money for it? The state has already approved measures to improve connectivity in the state, but there is still plenty left to be done in rural Iowa.

How to achieve the goals of bettering the state’s broadband connectivity will be up for debate for weeks, as both parties look to utilize the state’s funds in the best way possible.

If you’re at all concerned or interested in your city or state’s future, now’s the time to pay attention. Elections are fun, where politicians promise their way into office. Those promises either happen or come to die in the next few weeks. Stay plugged in and enjoy the ride.

Scott Levine is the Associate Editor of the Clinton Herald. He can be reached at scottlevine@clintonherald.com or @ScottLevineCH on Twitter.

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