EDITORIAL: It’s your money, your right to know

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The Independent asked a simple question of the City of Liberty Hill: tell us what the revenues and expenses are for the City.

Do you think as a taxpayer, business owner or developer that you are entitled to that information?

We do.

That information was once easy to obtain. It was once provided monthly as part of a City Council agenda. But we asked, because those numbers have not been shared publicly since late 2018.

Last summer, a budget was passed but not explained, and since that time there’s been no sharing of how well the city revenue sources are doing or exactly how much money is being spent.

It’s a simple request, that was met with silence until the City was forced to respond, and at that time the answer was to tell The Independent that the documents requested didn’t exist.

But a report doesn’t cease to exist simply because someone chooses not to hit print anymore. In fact, The Independent obtained a copy of the exact report it requested for the month of March 2020. That acquired copy did not have the revenue pages included, but did show expenses as they have been kept by the City.

So the report does exist.

Even if the report didn’t exist, the information would. That is unless we are to believe that strict accounting of government funds is no longer important. We know it is.

So why not just share the information? Why not be willing to sit down and talk through that budget and discuss the revenues and expenses, why some numbers are larger than expected and others lower?

Budgets aren’t perfect, and are always amended, but as with many things under the current City administration, the resistance to share data and evasive reaction to questions makes us wonder.

Taxpayers are entitled to an explanation of how every penny is collected and spent. There is no scenario where local government accounting is a secret.

As expected, after reviewing the March 2020 report, The Independent has more questions than answers regarding the current budget. These questions themselves are not an indictment of a failed budget or money management process. They are just questions. Questions are only bad if there’s not a good answer.

The preemptive attempt by the City to explain on Facebook July 7 that what The Independent might write about the budget might be misleading is a new approach to be sure. Since no one from the City was willing to discuss those questions they could hardly know why we were asking, much less correct the newspaper before a story was published.

So the story in today’s paper about the current budget is one primarily of data and questions about that data. The Independent can only report numbers it is provided, and hopefully get some context and explanation to accompany them. It is the first of hopefully many stories about our local government budget. And that’s important.

Unless, of course, a general assurance on the City’s Facebook page that all is well with the budget is all we should expect from our government anymore.

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