City officials taking low road on spending questions
There’s a very snide, contemptuous and secretive attitude of late regarding all things financial at Corbin City hall. This newspaper is having to climb mountains to get basic information.
That usually means trouble.
At the meeting where the city passed its budget this year, not a single highlight of the over $11 million worth of planned spending was given. Nothing. Not a word. Are we buying some new police cars? Are improvements being made to the Rec Center? Are the guys in Public Works getting some new equipment? Are we fixing more sidewalks?
Who knows? Nobody’s talking.
When one commissioner asked why the practice continues of overestimating revenues that are totally out of step with reality, the question was met with scorn.
Another wanted to know why the budget for the police department was going up over $200,000, especially since a municipal order has been in place since around 2012 freezing salaries there. He got some half-sensical answer from the city manager blaming it on overtime.
Never was it mentioned that city employees were getting an across-the-board raise this year, a fact of which I’m fairly certain some commissioners were not totally aware. Nothing wrong with pay raises, but you’d think that would be something worth pointing out as a feature of the budget!
He’s lucky he got an answer at all out of the city manager. We get next to nothing. Since actual city meetings are almost literally a pre-rehearsed sham designed to reveal as little as possible about what’s going on, little can be learned there.
When this newspaper asks questions nowadays at city hall, we are told to email them. When we email, they get ignored. It’s lame, but true.
For instance, we had lots of questions about the recent resignation of the manager of The Corbin Arena. By the way, not a word was said about her getting three-months worth of severance pay at the meeting where commissioners accepted her resignation.
Did they all know about the severance package? Does it include any other perks besides just pay? Why give a severance at all since she resigned? Was she under contract? Was she encouraged to resign under threat of termination or some other undesirable action, like a salary reduction or change in job duties? Wouldn’t the city commission have to explicitly approve a severance package with a vote? Is that going to be done in the future?
We want to know because we are fairly sure you want to know. We are curious people. So are our readers.
But apparently, you can’t know these things. It is off-limits knowledge.
I remember in 2010 (not that long ago) I had to fight tooth and nail to get a line-item budget for the city of Corbin.
Not a map to buried pirate treasure! Just a budget. I was denied. Threatened. Lied to over and over.
For years I had been asking for a line-item budget, but I was always told the city of Corbin did not have one. I felt like that was odd. A strange way to do things. It wasn’t until an honest commissioner showed me proof of its existence that the lie was exposed. I finally got what I’d been wanting for years.
Incidentally, we are right back in that same spot again here in 2016. We want a line-item budget, but are having a lot of trouble getting one. They are back to the old claims that one does not exist, believe it or not. History repeats. You have to wonder about the sanity of anyone that would run an entire city government with no line-item budget. Anyone involved with something that operates this way should be embarrassed. It’s clearly not the right way to behave and do business.
This newspaper does not have these same problems with other local governments. Williamsburg, Whitley Fiscal Court, school boards and our various quasi-governmental boards are all more open and transparent. Corbin is the lone dark stain in this regard.
It’s only because of the efforts of this newspaper that it has become common knowledge that city spending is WAY out of control. While others whitewashed audit reports for years, we dug into the numbers and exposed the truth. The numbers don’t lie. Officials have been given ample opportunity to respond to our reporting in this newspaper and they’ve never done so. There’s a reason for that.
Just ask people in the Knox County side of Corbin if city spending needs to be brought to heel. Starting this month, they get another 1 percent tax slapped onto their gross wages in an effort to appease the government beast. Their sacrifice won’t be enough for very long. History tells us that.
City spending has gone up in existing departments nearly $2 million in just 10 years. That’s not including The Arena and the Main Street Program! We had an over $1 million budget surplus in 2006. Now, we’re “broke.” Better clutch your wallets and purses tight! At that rate, in a few years, more money will be needed.
At the News Journal, we think you deserve to know that … despite the best efforts of some at city hall to keep you confused and in the dark.