Letter: Council lacks transparency in budget planning

Opengov.com: The annual county budget directly affects where citizens live and work and should be influenced by their needs and concerns.”

This Fairfield government, however, is again, blocking citizen engagement with its lack of financial transparency in the budgeting process.

Under Moses Bell’s leadership, our citizens are denied access to vital analytical reports which describe our county’s fiscal status and budget comparisons. 

Neither council nor this administration have posted the important reports which provide the fiscal framework for the budget.

What are these reports?

First, the finalized edition of last year’s (2021) county audit has not been posted for public review. Unbelievable! Last years (2021) balance sheet and income statements have not been published nor has any updated version of the aforementioned.

Additionally, the details of the restricted fund balance have not been published, nor the budget operational summary nor the budget worksheet, thus, denying the public further visual insight into the budget decision making process.

“Never let transparency get in the way of dodging accountability” is becoming an old adage for the Fairfield council leadership. They clumsily continue to keep the public in the dark on the key financial components of the budget process. They block the public’s access to budget related documents making it impossible for us to have a complete and accurate picture of the budget process that should have our input.

“Citizen engagement is imperative to a successful annual budget/plan for the county.

It is important that citizens be able to provide input throughout the budgeting process. Soliciting their input in the local government’s choices further strengthens citizen’s trust and buy-in.

The public must be able to accurately judge, based on facts, the soundness of council’s budget decisions. Citizens must have easy access to those documents in order to become properly informed and engaged.

Remember, even this council might be motivated to do the right thing if the citizens are engaged.

It was the citizens, after all, who steered this council away from certain disaster with their attempted illegal mishandling of our COVID relief funds allocations.

On the other hand, when processes are hidden, we get disasters like low key employee morale, half-baked redistricting, and much-delayed projects like the county’s very important financial book closing, and the almost six-month late annual audit.

It’s past time for this council to come clean and let the light shine on the budget process by publishing all the financial statements related to the annual budgeting process, today!

 It’s long past time for this council to embrace citizen engagement!

Randy Bright

Ridgeway

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