As I listened at the Mayor and Board of Aldermen meeting discussing the budget cuts to nonprofit organizations, it appeared that a possible solution was introduced that would allow these agencies to maintain their funding levels. The city had access to funding, referred to as Artesian funds, that may have been able to be allocated to the budget and, thereby, free up monies that would keep these organizations’ funding levels intact.
Sounds confusing? As an audience participant, it was. More importantly, the Board appeared not to understand how these funds could be used nor what impact they might have on the budget. One Alderman said the funds could be used for one thing. Another said no they had to be used for something else. Then another Alderman said something that sounded plausible and the Alderman across the table was thankful for that bit of knowledge. Clearly, definitive information for how this money could be used was unknown. To make matters worse, the vote was taken without any consideration for finding out the answer.
This was the second and final reading for the budget. Much work had already been done. A new budget cycle would begin in a few days. These are probably the justifications for moving forward. There was another direction to be taken. The vote could have been tabled.
With technology at our fingertips, a clear understanding for the use of these funds could have been achieved. The administrative office with the “definitive answer” could have been contacted. A conference call could have been arranged with all parties concerned, including staff, complete with visual slides if needed. (No need for a face-to-face gathering.) Dialog, with all questions answered, could have taken place. The answer to how to use the funds would be known. If all things were feasible, the budget could have been amended. The Mayor and Board of Aldermen would reconvene. The budget would pass in a timely manner.
This is the kind of leadership citizens expect their elected officials to take. To be certain, it required a little more work. I’m sure the organizations and those who benefit from their services would have appreciated this kind of due diligence. Even if cuts still had to occur, citizens would not have been sitting in the audience wondering why no one appeared to be interested in knowing if this funding could be a real solution.
Representatives lauded the work of these nonprofits and touted the tremendous impact their services provide to the community. Platitudes are hollow when action is inanely avoided.
Deborah K. Reed
Chair, Tipton County Democratic Party