Citizens of Hamilton County will soon be able to see where county commissioners are spending nearly $1 million annually in discretionary funds.
On Wednesday, Commissioner Marty Haynes informed the group he would not try to do away with the commission's program, which allots $100,000 a year to each of the body's nine members for spending at their own discretion. Haynes said that, instead, he would like to offer a degree of accountability for citizens to track where their tax dollars were being spent by the group.
Typically, commissioners use their discretionary funds to pay for projects at schools in their districts or donate sums to local charities of their choice. The program is unique to Hamilton County and does not require the commission to hold a vote on any donation or payment less than $10,000 that is made with discretionary funds.
The group's discussion on the fund was prompted by a recent Times Free Press report, which outlined the group's recent usage of the funds.
Addressing the group, Haynes mentioned he was fulfilling a campaign promise to seek more transparency in the discretionary funds program.
"I still believe our discretionary spending needs to be listed online, on the county website," Haynes said. "I may be the only one here that feels that … but we need to show leadership on this."
Several commissioners said they took no issue with Haynes' proposal. Commissioners Fred Skillern, Joe Graham, Larry Henry and Jim Fields all expressed support for the idea, with Graham seconding Haynes' motion for the introduction of a resolution the group will vote on next week.
Only one commissioner, Greg Beck, expressed hesitation moving forward with the idea. Beck said that although he thought putting records online would be beneficial, he wanted the process outlined in such a way that would be easy for citizens to understand when trying to access information.
Beck said he didn't want county workers to become sidetracked by having to address the requests of concerned county taxpayers.
"They got a lot of work to do in there," Beck said. "One person could tie up [office supervisor] Chris Hixson all day with a question. Tell them how to find it."
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