EDITORIAL: County budget cuts should be public

·2 min read

Aug. 27—Sometimes government officials can convince themselves that the best way to get work done is to do it the easy way. Most frequently, you see this approach in meetings where input from the public is discouraged or ignored.

Seeking input and truly listening to it would make things awful messy.

Madison County officials seem to have fallen prey to such wrongheaded thinking in their approach to the 2023 budget.

Instead of discussing in public meetings how to cut $4.5 million, the Madison County Council has elected to keep the discussion out of the public eye.

The seven-member council can do this through emails and three members at a time meeting with the county auditor. This approach will forestall messy public conversations about what to cut where. And it's even legal.

But it's still wrongheaded. Just because the law says you can do it doesn't mean you should.

Before the pandemic, the council would do its budget cuts in public meetings where departments could state their cases for all to hear. Members of the council who think differently than the majority had an important public voice back then.

The new approach means that it's more difficult for council dissenters to be heard.

Simply put, council has gotten used to doing the budget the easy way. Not the best way, the easiest.

Yes, the final budget — minus cuts — will be voted on in a September meeting. But merely voting in public isn't exactly practicing transparency.

All of the council members, we're sure, at one time or another, pledged transparency if elected. Some of them aren't exactly keeping that pledge now.

Transparency means giving taxpayers an inside look at government decisions. It means keeping the public included in comparisons of needs and costs. After all, this is taxpayer money we're talking about here.

But that's not the way the Madison County Council sees it. Not when it's so easy to do it behind closed doors.

Editor's note: The first paragraph of this editorial was missing when it was first posted online. The paragraph has been restored.