Prioritize spending of taxpayers dollars

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The issue: Mayor James Perkins Jr. wants to make up for money not approved by voters.

Our position: It is proper for the city committees to discuss the issues and make recommendations.

Several months ago, Selma voters gave a resounding no to a $12.3 million bond issue that covered about 15 departments and some needs in those areas.

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Among those needs: better software for the city financial department and equipment to install curbs and gutters in the streets.

Those needs, plus myriad requests from the police department, have surfaced again in three resolutions from Mayor James Perkins Jr.

The mayor wants to take $250,000 from the State Gasoline Excise Tax Fund to purchase the street paving equipment, gutters, sidewalks and curbs. To date, the city has not offered any public list of streets that need curbs and gutters or sidewalks. There is no publicly-available list of streets that need paving.

The lack of information leads us to believe there is no planning of public works projects.

We do not see an orderly five-year or 10-year plan that would put this city&8217;s limited resources to the best use for the most people. It was this lack of information and planning that helped defeat the bond issue.

Why are we covering this ground again in a different way?

Similarly, we are not convinced that the city needs to upgrade its financial software. The auditors are silent on this subject, at least for this year. The mayor has not made public the management letter for the 2007 audit.

It would seem that if the auditors discovered problems with the city&8217;s bookkeeping software or methods, the city would not wait so long to release a letter saying so and give credible evidence that this requested $355,850 is necessary.

In the audit management letter of May 8, 2007, for the fiscal year 2006, which ended Sept. 30, 2006, auditors pointed out that the city has a chart of accounts inconsistent in structure. Each fund of the city uses a separate chart of accounts and the structure of those accounts, the numbers and descriptions within the funds vary.

The auditors recommended the city evaluate and make changes to make the accounts uniform. The city replied that at the time its finance department was evaluating what it would take to update its software. And that this move would help alleviate the situation with the account structure.

This is all we know publicly of a need for new software. Additionally, it appears wasteful to purchase new financial software just a few months before a city election when nobody is guaranteed any job security. More information and more time is needed before the city dips into its unrestricted cash to pay for this software.

The third resolution for training and equipment for the Selma Police Department seems the best proposal of all, and it needs some investigation.

On Monday night during the city council meeting, Capt. William Riley III said he agreed with the list of needs that included various training experiences for police officers, new vehicles, radios and a plethora of other things.

If we are to have a safe place in which to live and work, our police officers should be well-trained and equally as well equipped. However, this does not mean a blank check should be handed off to the department. Again, planning and public accountability would go a long way in alleviating some concerns left over from previous administrations. Council President George Evans moved deliberately when he asked committees to take up the issues and bring back recommendations. We hope those committees will take the charge seriously.

This is taxpayer money. This affects all of us. The public should be informed of every move.