Winona County decided recently not to give dollars from their 2011 budget to the Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). One of the reasons for that action was the fact that SWCD has amassed $400,000 in undesignated reserves. The SWCD was able to save that much money from its annual budgets of the last several years, it seems, because it had been requesting larger contributions from the county than it needed for annual expenses.
The SWCD is funded primarily by state and federal contributions. SWCD had requested $109,000 from the county for 2011. The $400,000 was reportedly earmarked for a portion of a future building project.
This is unfortunately not the first time lately we’ve found out that a local government agency was setting dollars aside out of its budget for a future building project. When the county commissioners were weighing whether or not to build a new county building, an addition to the annex building, they were told that there was nearly enough in a county building fund for the project. Good news, until they discovered that county department heads had been squirreling away cash from their annual budgets for the purpose of building. Government budgets are, of course, taxpayer funded. Neither the taxpayers nor county commissions were ever consulted as to whether or not they approved of such a building fund, let alone a building, and in fact knew nothing about it.
Perhaps it takes a recession such as the one we are presently in for the taxpayers and elected officials to take a microscope to their budgets and try to unravel where the money is actually going. But the hubris of government bureaucrats is still astounding. Imagine asking for taxpayer money you don’t need to deliver services to the people, but money you want to build yourself a new building. Now imagine asking for this money when so many taxpayers are jobless and on the verge of home foreclosure.
Taxpayers deserve to know that money that they might think is going to such things as social services or clean water is actually not being spent on pet projects. Thanks should go to the county board and Duane Hebert, county administrator, for ferreting out such money-hoarding schemes and pave the way for an actual reduction in the amount of taxes we must pay.
But it makes one suspicious, doesn’t it, of all governmental bodies. How much tax are we paying, we wonder, for which we get no services in return. And who is it who does benefit?