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In an attempt to avoid a circus Thursday evening the Spencer County Fiscal Court accomplished just that, and seriously brought into question whether the court represents the people or themselves.
We here at the Spencer Magnet take no direct position on whether the budget should or shouldn’t have been cut as we have not, as of yet, done a detailed analysis of the budget. Our concern is more in regards to what has been recently portrayed by magistrates and how these meetings could actually be conducted.
Nearly a month and a half ago County Judge Executive Bill Karrer presented his proposed budget to the magistrates. During that meeting Karrer presented a presentation on the “highlights” of the budget and asked magistrates if they had any questions regarding the budget. At that time the magistrates had just been presented the budget and asked no direct questions of the process.
Several of the magistrates though did have issues with the budget and called a special meeting on May 13 to discuss the budget. The meeting, while open to the public, was not attended by anyone other than four of the magistrates, County Treasurer Doug Williams and the Spencer Magnet. At that time magistrates went through the budget line by line and asked Williams several questions regarding lines in the budget. While this was admittedly a good first step it was problematic as after two hours of discussion the magistrates appeared only slightly closer to a clear understanding of the budget. Part of the problem with this meeting is that none of the department heads were called in to offer input on the process. While it is true that magistrates make the ultimate decision, department heads help to provide the hard figures on which magistrates and judge executive may base their decision.
During the special meeting magistrates said that at the next regularly scheduled meeting on May 19, they would voice their concerns and ask additional questions regarding the budget. The four magistrates also voiced their desire to call in the department heads to answer specific questions regarding the budget.
The May 19 meeting came and went. The four magistrates voted against a first reading of the budget and continued the meeting to last Thursday. Interestingly none of the commitment to question the budget or have an open discussion on the budget occurred. The four sat silent and no one appeared ready to take the lead on the issue.
The Thursday meeting promised to be a fulfillment of previous promises to look more closely at the budget and yet Magistrate Jerry Davis, citing his recent defeat in the primary election and his review of documents provided to him by Karrer, chastised the other magistrates for failing to talk to the department heads and failing to be prepared for the meeting. Karrer also chastised the magistrates for not taking the time to speak with department heads. Both men seemed displeased with the idea of bringing the department heads in and going line by line through the budget. One has to wonder why?
We agree it is important that the magistrates be prepared for fiscal court meetings. The magistrates had ample time to review the documentation provided to them and talk to employees regarding their needs and the needs of the county.
The problem though is why weren’t the department heads brought before the fiscal court and questioned regarding their requests? Why wasn’t the public given an ample opportunity to listen to details of the budget and allowed to have input? Even if each of the magistrates spoke with the department heads individually, members of the public would not have been given an opportunity to be privy to those meetings.
Why not schedule a formal budget workshop after initial presentation of the budget, to be attended by all of the department heads? The city of Taylorsville has such workshops and the city even goes so far as to call in help from the state of Kentucky. The city conducted three separate budget meetings for their budget and yet county leaders seem to think an open discussion of the budget is somehow anathema. We think county leaders have forgotten who they work for. The budget is not something to be discussed in back room meetings with department heads but open for all the world to see.
We hope in the future magistrates will stick by their guns and demand an open presentation of all the facts for the public consumption. Anything less is completely unacceptable.