Lack of transparency overshadows Fairfield County’s FY2024-25 budget

WINNSBORO – Transparency concerning the county’s FY2024-25 budget has been a bone of contention since April when the budget process began.

“I don’t think we’re ready to pass a budget right now,” Randy Bright said when addressing council during a public hearing for the budget that was held in the afternoon at a special called meeting on Wednesday, May 29.

“We have too much work yet to do,” he said. “And it’s a budget that the public has had virtually no access to. One budget secured in the lobby of this building for 21,000 residents? This is not budget transparency.”

Speaker Don Goldbach agreed.

“This budget is a public document. Having just one copy available in this location is not effective for the citizens of the county. I would request that in the future you have this document online. The finance department could easily put it online and make it much easier for the citizens to actually look at it,” Goldbach said.

When The Voice asked for a copy of the budget in April, one was provided, but the document was a 267 page “budget worksheet report,” not an actual draft budget. That same document was provided for council members and one was secured in the lobby for the public, though no significant publicity was released to notify the public that it was available.

Videos of the Wednesday afternoon budget workshops have also not been made public. When the Voice requested that the workshop video be posted to YouTube, the newspaper received an email from Interim Administrator Clay Killian stating that a link was being prepared. But that link was for the special called May 29 council meeting and budget public hearing, not the workshop.

Council passed second reading of the budget at the May 29 special called meeting, but there was no significant discussion of the budget.

In an email to The Voice on June 4, Killian confirmed the lack of progress on the budget.

“Please keep in mind that council has made no amendments [to the proposed budget] at this point. We made some suggestions at the last work session, but council wanted to consider them a bit more before making any changes,” Killian said. “Therefore, the budget is currently unchanged from what was presented.”

The last two budget workshops have been held on Wednesday afternoons. The most recent workshop was held Wednesday, June 4, at 3:30 p.m. at the county building. A regular called meeting is set for 6 p.m., Monday, June 10.

It has not been announced when a budget draft will be available to the public. The third reading of the FY2024-25 budget must be passed by June 30, 2024.

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