Our View: Behind closed doors

September 7, 2011 1:44:00 PM

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It''s budget season for counties and municipalities. 

 

They have until Sept. 15 to adopt a budget. And we''ve watched as they divvy out the dollars and cents in an attempt to balance their budgets before the deadline. 

 

From school districts to municipalities, we''ve seen the play by play, as they do the tedious work of cutting here and squeezing there. 

 

But for the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors, the dirty work has happened behind closed doors. 

 

While the cities of Starkville and Columbus, as well as local school districts, have held open meetings about the budget, even fielding questions from attendees, Lowndes County supervisors will meet individually with the county administrator to put the finishing touches on a $38.27 million budget.  

 

Legally, the supervisors can meet one or two at a time, with other county officials, without notifying the public. And this, per a Tuesday-morning meeting, is their plan. 

 

Legal or not, in the interest of transparency, they should host a public hearing prior to Sept. 15. 

 

Supervisor Leroy Brooks suggested hosting a public workshop for this very reason, but his motion was shot down, 3-2. 

 

The process is far from pretty, and no, budget hearings are not usually well attended. But at least it shows the board''s willingness to be open with the community. 

 

After all, it''s our tax dollars they''re spending. 

 

But perhaps openness isn''t what they''re after. They do meet at 9 a.m. on seemingly random days of the month, when it would be difficult for many interested community members to attend. 

 

And unlike other governing bodies that allow residents to sign up for input sessions on the day of the meeting, you won''t get on the supervisors'' agenda unless you call well in advance. 

 

It''s past time for Lowndes County supervisors to be more open and accountable to the people they serve.