Today’s Word: Accountability
Written by Administrator
Friday, 11 July 2008
Accountability is a word we reference a lot in this space, but, when dealing with our local government, it is a word that often needs to be referred to.
During this week’s Fiscal Court meeting, one of our leaders questioned a financial decision made by a department director. The decision was made to outsource collections at the ambulance service without the
Fiscal Court’s approval and now the viability of that service is being questioned. While we look for accountability in this government department, we must, also, turn to other departments for accountability. This latest foray is just another example in a long line of issues brought to the forefront and then neglected.
Let’s review recent county history.
Enhanced 911: Short story. It’s been 10 years with thousands of dollars spent and nothing has happened. Now, a professional has been brought in, basically to start all over again and complete what our leaders couldn’t do in the first place.
The Jail: For months on end county government discussed the financial problems at the county jail. The jail spends twice as much as it brings in and money must be taken from other services to keep it functional. The county jailer rarely comes to court meetings and instead of cutting the budget as promised when taking office, he has increased it. Fiscal Court has followed suit. The Court doesn’t bid out services at the jail, they refuse to look at cost saving solutions and continue to throw our tax dollars into a black hole of state prisoners and drunk tanks as money is taken from other services to support the increasing costs at the jail. But, we are in a new budget year and things are back to normal until money starts getting tight again.
The Audits: We are still waiting for a couple years worth of financial audits to be released, but have the first not told us enough. According to the released audits, forget about balancing the checkbook, it has never been opened. Yet, our Fiscal Court shrugged the problems off as minor and never brought it up again or addressed the findings in those audits.
Let’s not talk about the Fiscal Court’s financial ineptitude, let’s discuss that of those working under them, such as at the ambulance service. Outsourcing billing without court approval is only one issue out of several important issues that need attention. $825,000 was collected and brought to the ambulance service in user fees at the close of the fiscal year; more than enough money to cover budgetary expenses. Add occupational tax dollars to that amount and the service should have received more than $1 million in the last fiscal year, right? Wrong.
Forget about using this money to make much needed improvements (we need paramedics, folks) at the one service that is truly life or death for every McCreary Countian. The money from the ambulance service goes into the general fund through the front door and goes out the back door to the jail, or somewhere else.
According to the Occupational Tax Ordinance, only 10 percent of your tax money goes to the jail, right? Wrong. Ask your magistrate where the 22 percent that goes into the general fund goes. A few deputies are paid, but the rest slides out the back door as well, again, mostly to the jail.
The point is, yes the county is required to provide certain services, like the jail. However, the Court wants accountability at the ambulance service, their cash cow, to keep money flowing only so others can waste it.
To the Court; you want accountability. Then make it happen across the board and apply accountability to all government departments. It is our tax money, not yours, but you always seem to forget that. And, if one of your employees is not doing their job, then tell them you are tired of wasting our tax money and fire them. It’s simple. But it takes more than one magistrate asking for accountability, perhaps it’s a start in the right direction.
In six years of this administration very little has changed in this county. Everyone continues to hope, though, we all want to see progress. But, when you are wasteful with tax dollars, confuse your priorities (it’s chip and seal time folks) and can’t even begin to provide our citizens with basic necessities that every community in this country should have, you can forget about any kind of development. You can forget about the future of this county. Anyone looking to invest in this community will take a serious look at the resources present and how they are administered.
If you cannot lay down to rest at night without worrying about the health and safety of your family, without worrying where your children will have to move to in order to find work, you surely are not going to worry about if the road department will get to your road tomorrow.
We have four magistrates and a judge whose sworn duty is to govern this county’s affairs in a financially responsible way using sound business practices within the laws and ordinances of this state and county.