We can’t see the draft budget before the Public Hearings, said the Chairman, answering my question after the Lowndes County Commission Regular Session of 27 May 2014.
Video. After congratulating the Chairman on recognizing the poll workers, Crawford Powell for recusing himself on an appointment of himself, and the Commission for the recent Budget Sessions, I asked:
- When are the two Public Hearings required by state law before adoption of the budget?
- When is the second Budget Session mentioned in the Budget Session held earlier that same day?
- Where is the draft budget on the county’s website so the public can see it before the public hearings?
Chairman Bill Slaughter’s answers to me after the meeting adjourned:
- The Public Hearings weren’t scheduled yet. When they were scheduled, the county would put them on the website and make a public notice as usual. (They aren’t on the website yet, so we can guess they haven’t been scheduled yet.)
- If they have a second Budget Session they’ll announce it on the county’s website. He said he was unaware that the website page for the one that same morning was blank.
- The county will not publish a draft budget because then people wouldn’t show up for the Budget Public Hearings. I pointed out that usually nobody showed up anyway. He said that was evidence in favor of his point. I found that logic hard to follow, since it would seem to me more people would show up if they could see what in the budget was of interest to them.
The Chairman’s last answer is interestingly different from his answer of 23 October 2013:
Until it’s voted on, that’s when it becomes an official county document. Other than that it’s just like this piece of paper [crumples it up].
The Chairman’s last answer is also different from what Matthew Woody printed in the Valdosta Daily Times the next day, Lowndes County weighs tax increase,
A draft copy of the budget remains on file in the Office of the County Clerk. Electronic copies may be provided upon request. Once adopted, an approved copy of the budget will be posted on the county’s website.
I suppose what the County Clerk told the reporter doesn’t quite exactly contradict what the Chairman said, but it doesn’t seem to agree, either.
Why are either of them trying to limit public access to a tax-funded document on the collection and expenditure of taxes?
PS: Thanks to Jerrell Anderson for videoing this segment.