The quest for a copy of Schuylkill County’s proposed 2022 budget has gone on for 3 days now. And still, we’re left empty-handed.
The topic did come up in discussion, however, at Wednesday’s pre-Thanksgiving Schuylkill County Commissioners meeting.
And basically, all we know now that we didn’t know before today is that the County is “working through that” … whatever that means.
Still Waiting on a RTK Request to See Schuylkill County’s 2022 Budget
For background, we asked the County last week (on Friday) to provide a PDF copy of the proposed Schuylkill County government budget for 2022. It was passed by Commissioners last Wednesday and it’s supposed to be on full view for the public immediately afterward.
By full view, it means literally. It’s available for viewing at the Courthouse like it’s relics from King Tut’s tomb.
You apparently can’t get a copy of Schuylkill County’s budget simply by asking. We were shocked to learn that we’d have to fill out a Right to Know form to get a copy. Begrudgingly, we did and asked for a copy of 2021’s budget at the same time. All that was requested was a PDF copy of them, not paper.
As of the end-of-day Wednesday, the County hasn’t responded to the RTK request.
The trouble and impracticality with that is, you actually have to go to the Courthouse in Pottsville to view it. So, a PDF copy of it in email would be a lot more convenient to everyone involved.
Better yet, as we proposed in our clapback to the County’s RTK request, put the budget file on the County website, just like nearly every other county in Pennsylvania. That way anyone who wants to see it can simply download it and view it at their leisure.
READ: Transparency? Schuylkill County Requiring Right to Know Forms for Copy of Proposed 2022 Budget
Wednesday’s Meeting – Day 3 Waiting for the Budget
Well, while we go into Thanksgiving empty-handed as far as budgets go, we should be thankful to know the County is “working through that” on our request to get the file on the County website.
At Wednesday’s Commissioners meeting, the topic came up in discussion during the second Public Comment period. Apparently, the outspoken Jeff Dunkel (former Mayor of Mount Carbon) made a similar request and was also told to fill out a RTK form to get a copy of the proposed 2022 budget, too.
Dunkel, who obviously did read our first article, also wondered why the budget just can’t be on the County website. Apparently, he had some issue with going to view it at the Commissioners office last week, per the discussion on the floor of the board room on Wednesday. That got the ball rolling on the discussion Wednesday.
Commissioner Gary Hess asked, “Can I ask why the budget was not viewable?”
County Administrator Gary Bender chimed in and said curtly, “The budget was viewable out there, Commissioner. We have the 2022 preliminary budget as well as the 2021 budget.”
By “out there” Bender is referring to the Commissioners office. Also, Bender is clearly responding to our request to the County to provide not only the 2022 proposed budget but also the 2021 budget.
Cheeky, really. That’s fine, though. We are filing a similar request for the 2020 budget, too.
Out-of-Touch with Reality
And by saying something like that, Bender’s clearly missing the point that the average working person in Schuylkill County doesn’t have the time – and shouldn’t have to spend the time – to travel to Pottsville and deal with the Courthouse directly to get a copy of its plan to spend their money in the following year.
We presume the budget is viewable at the Commissioners office. But honestly, who has that kind of time? And while it’s there in their office, maybe they should consider looking at it once in a while.
When you want to see a budget, you’re not asking because you believe it to be some ancient relic housed in a museum. It means you want to look into the numbers and what’s being reported by the County. That takes time and frankly, no one deserves or is required to have government officials in the room where you’re looking at it.
Putting the Budget Online? They’re “Working Through That”
None of this puts a budget in anyone’s hand yet, of course. We’re guessing the County is killing clock on its deadline to respond to our request. That means we might not get a copy of the budget until Monday since they have 5 business days to respond.
But there may be some progress on getting a copy of the budget onto the County website. Rest assured, the folks up at the Courthouse are “working through that” right now. At least, that’s what they said. We’re not sure what that means though.
Later in the meeting, Hess questioned whether the budget can be put online. Hess, by the way, was BCC’d in our email with the original RTK form attached.
Bender told Hess, “We’ve been working through that.”
Hess replied, “I know you have.”
But it’s not that hard to post PDFs to any website. Even the folks at Schuylkill County Courthouse can do it.
In fact, since we filed our RTK request, the County has uploaded and clearly displayed 6 PDF files on the site:
- 2 Election results files
- 3 Commissioners meeting files
- 1 Election Board meeting agenda
So, “work through” what, exactly?
His reply makes it sound like they almost rehearsed this conversation prior to the meeting. And by the end of the discussion, Bender and Commissioner Boots Hetherington spun this around to make them sound like they’re working hard on this.
“If you can, that would be great,” Hess said, maybe trying to play a little politics … attracting more bees with honey, if you will. However, it turned Hess from the Commissioner who appeared to be demanding some transparency into one who’s willing to wait until the other side is good and ready to provide what people want.
Don’t worry though. Boots assured Hess the team is on the job.
“It is being worked on,” Hetherington said.
“Thank you,” Hess replied.
“Not a problem,” Boots said, essentially winning the conversation.
Theresa R Price
November 25, 2021 at 12:50 pm