The best testimony to how obscenely high the discretionary funds that our county commissioners allot themselves is that some can’t find the time in a single year to spend it all.
To exhaust the $40,000 fund, a county commissioner would have to give away your money at a rate of $110 a day for all 365 days in a single year. That requires determination and stamina.
That some county commissioners can’t rise to that challenge should weigh in favor of the fund being reduced — or even eliminated, which would put our commissioners in the same position as most of their peers, perhaps even all, across the state, which is without taxpayer dollars to distribute at their whim. But instead the commissioners bumped the fund $10,000 a year beginning July 1.
We know that some county commissioners aren’t happy with a Page 1A story today about the discretionary fund, or a story we published two weeks ago about how they are the fourth-highest paid commissioners in North Carolina. But instead of questioning our motive, they should ask themselves why they fear the public having the information?
We will answer — for a second time — why we published this information, and add parenthetically that the only water we are carrying is this county’s residents’.
Our commissioners have been very public recently about their alleged desire to protect taxpayer dollars, cutting economic development and harassing the president of the community college, while also expressing the need to add revenue with the hiring of a new ambulance service that suggests inside politics, and green lighting a sand-mining operation that has residents in the Philadelphus community angry. We believe that such thriftiness should extend to how the commissioners in the state’s most impoverished county are paid, which is too much, and how they spend taxpayer dollars through their discretionary fund, which is with ease and without accountability.
The commissioners defend the system, saying that the money meets needs in the community, and that is a valid point. But it doesn’t explain the need for $40,000 for each commissioner, or the ability to carry the money over from one year to the next.
They argue further that the discretionary funds prevent long lines from forming at their monthly meetings of people with their arms extended and their palms upward. The solution is simple: Provide forms at the county administration office that need to be filled out when money is requested, and the commissioners — all of them — can disburse the money with a single vote at their next meeting, placing it in the public record.
But the truth, and you know it already, is that the commissioners use this money not only to spread joy throughout the county, but to win favor from those whose support they need in May or November of even-numbered years, presenting the check with a handshake and a wink.
It is a clever scheme that the current commissioners didn’t hatch. But the current commissioners have increased the fund — and it is within their charge to retool how and how many of these dollars are distributed.
The better part of discretion is, after all, valor.