If lawmakers do the right thing — and all signs are pointing to the extreme likelihood they will — then there will soon be a great deal more accountability in government spending.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo has taken up the cause of state Auditor Adam Edelen, by sponsoring a bill that would require hundreds of small special districts across the state to open up their books to public scrutiny.
State, county and city governments and school boards are already required to abide by strict rules regarding oversight of public spending. Budgets must be made available upon request and all spending decisions are made in open meetings.
The 1,200 small special districts, which include such entities as volunteer fire departments, libraries and water and sewer districts, also face similar requirements, but because they are lesser known, the public often does not know where to find information. In some cases, it’s a challenge to find out where a particular district has an office.
While these districts are small individually, they command great power over public money collectively. Special districts collect and spend $2.7 billion a year in property taxes, coal severance tax grants and state budget line-item expenditures. And much of the time, those people who pay their bills — the taxpayers — have no clue where the money is going.
Stumbo’s bill would change that, by applying uniform reporting requirements to all such districts and then placing all of the collected information in a public database that could be perused over the internet.
This is a no-brainer. Public funds should be subject to public oversight. We hope this bill sails through the legislature and is signed into law in record time, as well it should be.
— The Floyd County Times