The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.
This is a tale of four boards. These are boards charged with spending tax money either directly or indirectly. We have the Ambulance District with a 30 cent levy. The Board of Services has a 12 cent levy. The Tourism Advisory Board oversees a 2.5% room tax. The Main Street Board, which gets no direct tax money, administers grants on behalf of the city.
The Ambulance District Board members, elected by between 2% and 7% of the voters in their gerrymandered districts, have hired a director and are now hiring an assistant and an office clerk. These people will be doing much the same job as the Warrensburg city staff have been doing since the fire department took over ambulance service several years ago, even if Warrensburg is able to reduce staff somewhat, there'll be more people working at taxpayer expense than there were before the ambulance district got going. Anyone care to make a guess on when they'll be coming back to the voters for a tax increase?
The Board of Services is an appointed board which answers to the County Commission rather than directly to the taxpayer-voters. The members appear to be involved in open warfare over just how much fiscal oversight needs to be exercised over the professional management employees. Johnson Countians have been extraordinarily generous in their support of giving useful employment to handicapped citizens; their generosity should be repaid by open and detailed accounting to those who foot the bill.
The Tourism Advisory Board manages small change compared to the previous two boards. Members are appointed by the city and the Chamber and are charged with making sure the tourism tax is spent wisely. Unfortunately, they continue to hold their meetings at obscure times without invitation to the press instead of inviting public participation as our neighbors in Clinton do. The main oversight issue here is on allocation of time and overhead. I have seen nothing to indicate any change in the practice of using personnel paid by tourism funds for other projects has changed; the practice of giving the Chamber 20% of the money, then charging tourism for office space, likely still goes on.
The board that has a real opportunity to make a positive move is the Main Street Board. This board is searching for a new executive director. While a well-qualified outsider may have been needed several years ago, now is the time to look inside the community for someone who understands Warrensburg and can relate to the economic dislocation suffered by many businesses during the street project. To overcome the $2 levy debacle, somebody will have to generate a lot of trust. As long as the Main Street Board continues to be selected undemocratically, it will have to be the new director.
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