On the city’s budget

Published 11:56 pm Monday, October 5, 2009

The Selma Times-Journal is publishing a multi-day series, taking each department of the proposedSelma City budget and showing the variances and the reasons for those variances.

We feel an obligation to our readers, the taxpayers of the city, to let them see where the dollars paid through property taxes and sales taxes are being spent.

There is no agenda on the part of this paper in publishing these stories other than to allow the public to know how the city plans to spend its dollars.

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For example, in a story Sunday about the mayor’s budget, the focus was on the salaries in the department.

The mayor added the 12.5 percent back to all employees salaries in the city, contingent on passage of the bond issue that voters will decide on Oct. 27.

It just so happened that the mayor’s department budget is so small, the salaries showed up as the major reason for an increase. This was no other reason.

Mayor Evans has run expenses as low as he possibly could, having inherited a city from the James Perkins Jr. administration that was in dire financial straits.

Evans has not padded any budgets or acted with any fiscal irresponsibility. This is clear in a reading of the budget.

As for the printing of the salaries of city employees. These are public employees. Their salaries are part of the public record.

While the publication of salaries might make many employees uncomfortable, that is one of the drawbacks to working in a public entity.

The publication of these salaries is no attempt to single out an employee or set of employees. It has been suggested that the newspaper use numbers or job descriptions to describe the salaries of the rank-and-file employees and publish those of the department heads only.

We believe this would be unfair to the department heads and to the taxpayers of the city, who ultimately have the right to know.

Sometimes, transparency in government is not a pleasant occurrence. Sometimes, allowing the sun to shine into the corners of our government is down right uncomfortable.

But the public has a right to know. And that right to know weighs in above all other considerations when it comes to spending the hard-earned dollars of taxpayers.