County’s Debt Plan Makes Sense

July 14, 2018

Without offering an alternative of her own, Lackawanna County Commissioner Laureen Cummings voted Wednesday against a sensible plan to borrow $15 million to modernize government operations, take care of county roads and bridges and repair county property.

Commissioners Patrick O’Malley and Jerry Notarianni voted for the plan, but Cummings wistfully envisioned covering the $15 million by being “more frugal.”

Reasonable borrowing in an era of low, fixed interest rates to take care of important public business is frugal. And it’s the only way to acquire money needed for major projects, unless Cummings knows how to immediately cut $15 million from the current county budget.

And, as it is, the borrowing does not preclude the commissioners from cutting other county spending to cover the debt over time.

Up to $4 million of the borrowing is for the purchase and reconstruction of a building behind the Lackawanna County Prison to house Central Court and preliminary hearings. That cost will be mitigated somewhat by eliminating the need to renovate the courthouse to better accommodate prisoners being held for hearings, and by reducing the substantial security costs inherent in transporting prisoners from the prison to the courthouse.

Another project will upgrade software for land-related records offices, including the assessor and the recorder of deeds — which should in turn lead to a single, comprehensive system for all land-related records.

The objective for the county government, as for any other enterprise, is to wisely manage debt as an element of moving forward. It’s especially important for the county government because its infrastructure spending undergirds other elements of the county economy.

This debt plan is affordable and in the taxpayers’ best long-term interest.

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