The city should cut back its spending in several areas in order to help Selma prosper

Published 6:04 pm Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Selma City Council can’t seem to stop spending money.

The council deemed a half-cent sales tax as a slush fund shortly after approval, spending money on every type of project imaginable.

More recently, the council approved an increase in discretionary funding, which, coincidentally, came out of the slush fund. Each council member and the mayor will receive an additional $3,000, bringing the total amount of discretionary funding to $10,500 for the current fiscal year.

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Ward 5 councilman Sam Randolph made the initial proposal. Even after being turned down several times by other councilmembers, he persisted. Though financial concerns were the chief concern previously, it seems that council members no longer cared on June 24 about a tight budget and declining sales tax revenues.

Sure, the total amount transferred is relatively small — $30,000. With nearly a dozen unneeded transfers out of the half-cent sales tax this year, the numbers add up quickly.

Randolph’s argument for the increase was that he could use the money on improving his ward. It’s a worthy cause.

The only problem is that Randolph hasn’t spent much discretionary money on ward specific projects this year.

But Randolph isn’t the only one.

Every city councilmember spends discretionary money most frequently on non-profit organizations.

Dozens of charities come before the council every fiscal year. Most receive some sort of funding. The Selma City Council should understand that it’s OK to tell charities that discretionary money is going toward other projects.

An effective charity should have other means of funding than city government. Sure, infrequent donations are fine, but when non-profit organizations are the most frequent form of discretionary spending, something is wrong.

The council also has entirely too many ways — travel, discretionary and oil lease — to spend city money with no clear budget. Council members also get a salary.

A few council members frequently exceed travel expenses. A select few also exceed discretionary spending. Oil lease is the only funding source where council members accumulate large sums.

And, oil lease — dedicated to infrastructure — is the only true funding source where the results are usually visible.

If the council really wants to help the city, discretionary funds should have a line-item budget just like every other city department.

An even greater benefit would be for the council to remove individual discretionary spending altogether and focus it on improving the city.

It’s time for the city of Selma to stop freely spending taxpayer money and start being accountable for their actions.