By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com [1]

For many years, Lehighton borough's fiscal status was the envy of the region. Lehighton always had the lowest taxes, it always seemed financially sound, and it owned not only its own water and sewerage systems, but its own electrical distribution system as well.

In a way, Lehighton was a microcosm of our nation. It was self-sufficient and financially sound.

Like our nation, Lehighton borough no longer seems so relient. What's being fed to the public by the leaders of both the nation and Lehighton borough isn't exactly what's happening.

When Lehighton gave approval to its preliminary budget a few weeks ago, it announced there would be no tax increases. The budget showed expenses and income to be actually less than the past year.

Then final adoption of the budget occurred and council members weren't as optimistic on the fiscal soundness of the community. Council members said that in January, the budget might have to be revisited and there could, in fact, be a tax hike.

What was especially concerning with the most recent dialogue is that councilmen said the borough has essentially run out of funds; that they either have to take out a tax anticipation loan or borrow from other inner-borough accounts.

Treasurer Ann Wilhelm, who resigned from the position, said there probably won't be funds coming into the borough until April or May when earned income tax is collected.

At one time our nation was fiscally sound. There always was some amount of reckless spending, but never as we see today. And the spending in Washington is intensifying.

In Lehighton, one reason for its long, healthy financial status was its tax base. There were numerous garment mills which employed hundreds of people. There was a carpet factory. There was a large department store, several other major downtown businesses, and even the TIMES NEWS was located within the borough.

Like throughout the United States, factories and industries closed or moved to other locations. The result in a major component of our tax base has been eliminated.

When President Obama spoke at Lehigh Carbon Community College just recently, he told his audience the nation no longer has an industrial economy. It has a "media" economy. I'm not sure how that translates to economic soundness. I don't know how a "media" economy produces the goods we need to continue to be self-sufficient.

Just like in Lehighton, without the businesses and factories, the income just isn't as dependable as it used to be.

Maybe Lehighton's political leaders didn't know about the financial problems existent until the final copy of the budget was presented and the bills began arriving.

For Washington's leaders, the problems are evident. There has to be a slow-down in spending both domestically and with foreign aid. The health care reform package isn't what Americans had in mind when they voted Obama into office. The package that some lawmakers are hellbent on passing is one which merely gives large subsidies to insurance companies and large healthcare agencies while penalizing the little guy and tremendously adding more burden to the national debt.

It's the same with Cap and Trade. Americans will be drastically affected financially by this proposal while foreign companies will prosper. This isn't a good formula for solvency.

The present situation in Washington is not good for our future generations: our children and grandchildren.

Even in Lehighton, painful decisions must be made to bring the borough back to its past fiscal status.