The City of Girard is no longer in fiscal emergency. To mark the occasion, Mayor James Melfi popped the cork of a champagne bottle in the old city council chambers.
We don't see any cause for celebration. What we see is an example for others of what not to do.
Certainly there is room to congratulate Melfi and other city leaders who helped steer Girard's release from state-imposed fiscal oversight. But more important is for leaders in other local governments - management and labor - to avoid the frivolous spending that spiraled Girard's budget into morass. Rather than celebrate, reflect on the painful 10.8 years it took for Girard to recover from a $2.5 million debt.
It may have been much longer if not for the good fortune of having V&M Star spend $650 million on property that was once in the city.
Not just Girard. Liberty schools is now in the throes of what likely will be many years of state-controlled fiscal emergency because of frivolous spending, some of which continues. Brookfield and Niles schools are operating in fiscal watch, on the cusp of a state takeover after years of frivolous spending.
Still others face dire financial futures, unwilling to learn from Girard's, Liberty's, Niles' and Brookfield's mistakes. Hubbard, for example, has leaders resisting the common sense switch to a countywide emergency dispatching service even though such a move would not only improve a bleak financial forecast but improve the safety of its residents, businesses and first responders.
In Girard, employee attrition and deep spending cuts proved stressful for the remaining workers and drained services that residents and businesses had grown to expect. In Girard, steep water rate increases hurt middle- and lower-income residents and strained family businesses. In Girard, the financial inability to repair a dam has caused property values to drop.
In Niles, more than two dozen employees lost their jobs this year because nobody shared the burden years ago when health care costs soared. Local governments usually don't suffer financial collapse overnight; years of reckless spending leads to years of needlessly painful recovery.
So rather than celebrate Girard's release from fiscal emergency, local leaders should study its entrance into fiscal emergency. And they should keep in mind that few, if any, will have a V&M come to the rescue.