Officials in Mingo Junction are facing no less than a village government fiscal meltdown. For the time being, they must handle it without the professional assistance of a municipal administrator.
Village officials have been coping with declining revenue for several years. At one time the municipal income tax poured about $3 million a year into the town's coffers. That has been slashed by about three-fourths.
Still, Mingo Junction village government hobbled on, with many services reduced but still available to at least some degree. Even that may have to change.
During the past few months another round of revenue losses, linked to the bankruptcy of RG Steel, has struck the village. A municipal general fund budget of $1.27 million for the current year will have to be gutted to cope with an expected $763,000 in revenue for 2013.
After fixed expenses are deducted from that, only about $208,000 will be left to pay salaries of employees in the police, fire and service departments. At average wage levels, that will cover only about three people - one police officer, one firefighter and one service department employee.
Village officials are pondering how to handle the devastation. Specifically, they will have to determine which current municipal employees will have to be laid off.
Until about a week ago, Mingo Junction had a village administrator whose professional help other officials may have hoped would assist them in handling the budget crisis. But on Nov. 27, Village Council members voted unanimously to fire the administrator, Charley Bowman.
Bowman, who had been in the job less than two months, was terminated because some council members believed he was not cooperating appropriately with them.
Obviously, muncipal council members have to be comfortable with professional managers. But Bowman's firing leaves the village without an administrator who might help other officials navigate the troubled waters ahead.
If council members can find a new administrator they can afford - and with the skill set to provide expertise not available from other village officials - they should hire him or her as soon as possible. The next few years are going to be very difficult in Mingo Junction, and council members may need all the good help they can get to keep local government's head above water.