County Budget - YOUR MONEY $$$$$$$$$$$$$
Taking the word Public out of Public Participation!
By Pat Hunter
The budgeting process that county governments should follow is all spelled out in the CTAS County Budget handbook. ďCommunications should be clear and open to all public officials and the public.Ē
A budget is a way to manage current and future revenues and expenses to make sure critical government services are provided using available resources.
Mayor Arp is chairman of the budget committee and he votes. But state law says differently, the mayor is supposed to be a non-voting ex-officio chair of the budget Committee. Click here Budget committee law.
Budget Chairman ĖMayor Arp said that he decided department heads would meet with the Budget Director and him. Whatever was said and done during these closed-door meetings was then filtered down to the Budget Committee. According to Arp, the Budget Committee would only hear from department heads with problem budgets, which were previously flagged.
But state law, Budget Process and Budget Calendar say differently. The process calls for the Review, Analysis, and Recommendations to go before the Budget Committee and legislative body, press and public, not just two people.
When did the Budget Committee and commission vote to implement Mayor Arpís new budget policy?
Also, this is the first time ever that I recall being told that the proposed budget would be available for viewing during budget meetings ONLY and NO copies of the budget would be allowed to leave the Finance Office!!
Commissioners not on the budget committee and citizenís were asked to turn in the proposed budget information before leaving budget meetings. Only the Budget committee was allowed to take their copies home.
In past years and at every budget meeting, extra budget copies were readily available to commissioners, public, press, and other officials. The budget worksheets were/are prepared in Excel format, which can easily be sent by email or transferred to CD or DVD format.
What happens if taxpayers canít attend early morning or day meetings? Does that mean that the public isnít entitled to budget copies, public records? Donít taxpayers have a right to know how their hard earned money is proposed to be spent or to stay informed?
Commissioners have an obligation and responsibility to review and study all budget material, ask follow-up questions if needed and be informed before voting on the budget. Instead, proposed budgets are carefully guarded from public view.
It appears that commissioners are just going along with the mayorís philosophy of taking the word PUBLIC out of Public Records, Public Meetings and Public Participation. This is not democracy under the United States Constitution or the Tennessee Constitution, which guarantee citizens their right to participate in open, honest accountable government.
Loudon County Budget Committee 2006-2007:
Chairman Mayor Doyle Arp, Phone: 458.4664 office, 458.6508 fax, and 458.3980 home
Chris Park (5th District), Phone 986.1229, Email: email@example.com
Nancy Marcus (1st District), Phone: 458.8581, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob Franke (3rd District), Phone: 856.0303, Email: email@example.com
Don Miller (7th District), Phone: 458.0658, Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tracy Blair, Budget Director, Ex officio Budget committee Secretary, Phone: 458.4665, Ext. 109, Fax: 458.6508 Email: email@example.com