On Wednesday, Schuylkill County Commissioner Boots Hetherington said his administration will post the government’s 2022 budget online.
But before you get too excited about that, realize that the County will only do it AFTER they’ve approved the final version. That wasn’t the point. It’s like saying, “You can see it after we pass it.”
Boots Says County Will Post Budget Online AFTER It’s Approved
Hetherington said yesterday the County is “in the process of working with the IT people to get (the budget) online.”
“On the budget, we did look at what other counties are doing,” he said, adding later, “This will be a much more convenient way for people to look at it.”
Getting the budget online for anyone to see is a step in the right direction toward a more transparent County government. But the whole point was to allow the public to review it during the legally allotted time to do so … before it’s passed.
Passage of the 2022 budget is likely to happen when Commissioners meet on Dec. 15.
The “Secret” Proposed Budget
When we call the proposed budget a secret, it’s a bit of a misnomer. For the record, it is available for review at the Courthouse.
As we’ve explained, however, that setting doesn’t allow the public a proper chance to review the budget enough to question it. But that’s all the County seems willing to do prior to its passage.
Either they don’t want you to see the proposed budget until it’s formally approved or they’re just doing this because they think they can.
And what they’re doing at the Courthouse is playing a game with the public. It’s a game that keeps the public in the dark for as long as possible and really has no winners.
Schuylkill County requires residents to fill out a Right to Know form to get a copy of the proposed budget for themselves. And even if someone goes that far to get a copy of this budget, there’s no guarantee they’ll get it.
The County waited the full 5 days to respond to our Right to Know request to get a copy of the proposed budget. And its response was that it needed more time. In fact, it needed so much time, the actual final budget will be passed for 2 weeks before we get a copy of the proposed budget.
After all that, the County says it’s not even sure if a person can request a copy of a proposed budget through the Right to Know process, after saying it was required.
One of the reasons the County says it needs more time to get us a copy of that proposed budget is that it isn’t sure if it must. That was included in the response letter we got Tuesday and it was reiterated on Wednesday by Al Marshall, one of the County’s cadre of lawyers.
As to whether a copy of the proposed budget is accessible to the public through a Right to Know request, Marshall said Wednesday, “It’s being determined.”
Spoiler: It is. Everyone working to keep the proposed budget from the public is well aware of this. Again, it’s just a game to them.
So, if and when the County actually does post that finalized budget on its website later this month, it’ll hardly be a victory for the people demanding transparency. Instead, it’ll be more like a slap in the face.
- Schuylkill Budget Folly Continues – Courthouse Says It Needs More Time
- Schuylkill County Has a Policy of Bare Minimum Transparency
- Schuylkill County “Working Through” Getting 2022 Budget Online
- Transparency? Schuylkill County Requiring Right to Know Forms for Copy of Proposed 2022 Budget