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Schuylkill County News

Schuylkill Commissioners Keep Missing the Point on Budget Adjustments

Why is this so difficult?

Once again, the Schuylkill County Commissioners missed the point on providing information to the public up front about proposed in-year budget adjustments.

During last week’s meeting, the Commissioners unanimously OK’d more than $75,000 worth of budget adjustments and supplemental budget appropriations.

However, as has been the case since the dawn of time (presumably) with the Commissioners, the public only found out details on this money shifting right before the the board voted on it.

This prevents the public from questioning these moves and potentially voicing concerns with them.

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Last week, the moves were rather inconsequential. But that’s not really the point. The point here is that the public should be provided full details on these budget adjustments when the public Agenda is released the day prior to the meeting.

By doing so, the Commissioners give the public at least 24 hours to come up with any questions they may have about this.

Sometimes, these adjustments aren’t so inconsequential. The Commissioners employed this same tactic recently when approving bailout money for the Schuylkill County Airport Authority. That was more than $146,000 this year. And it was presented the same way to the public as all these other budget adjustments, with as little detail as possible.

Schuylkill County Commissioners and Their Aversion to Budget Transparency

This is what the budget adjustments looked like when presented to the public prior to the Schuylkill County Commissioners board meeting on July 12:

All that money and no explanation to the public up front on why it requires a budget adjustment. It’s just numbers on a paper, no context.

It remains not nearly enough. As the Commissioners claim to be working with transparency, they couldn’t possibly be more opaque when it matters most.

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Now, eventually, the County did fess up with some details on these budget changes.

For the adjustments, Finance Director Paul Buber explained the County is simply shifting money from one previously budgeted line item to another. No extra spending is happening:

  • Adult Probation ($1,500): This money will allow the department to send officers off-site for training so they’ll be empowered to do more training locally.
  • Election Bureau/Voter Registration ($2,300) & Public Works ($3,203): This will pay for unanticipated employee benefits.
  • Drug & Alcohol ($9,000): The money will allow this department to outsource grant writing services and pay for an increase in travel expenses for training.
  • Tax Claim Bureau ($11,650): This will pay for a pair of unexpected postage increases.

The Supplemental Budget Appropriation for the District Attorney’s Office is money from a grant the DA received. This money will allow the office to hire a gun violence investigator. It’ll also help offset costs associated with prosecuting crimes that were committed with a gun and it’ll also fund outreach to potentially help reduce gun crimes in Schuylkill County.

Again, these are rather mundane budget adjustments but if that were the point, it wouldn’t be a story.

The problem here is that providing these details ahead of time, prior to the meeting should be so easy and would be a show of transparency. But for some reason, this simple step is something the Commissioners refuse to do.

Missing the Point Entirely

During last week’s meeting, Commissioner Gary Hess asked Buber to provide details on each of the budget shifts. He made that request just before Buber addressed the board.

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Again, this is better than just running through these budget adjustments and the Commissioners voting without any details for the public.

But it’s not the point.

During Public Comment last week, the Commissioners were once again hammered on the point we’ve been making for weeks now by aspiring Libertarian Commissioner candidate Greg Woll, who implored the board to provide these details in their weekly Agendas.

To his comments, Commissioner Barron Hetherington said he’d take the advice “under advisement.”


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