Fiscal Accountability on Display for Rescue Funds

Guest Correspondence

The County Commission had a public discussion this week on the use of American Rescue Plan funding. There are many who advocated for use of the funding for affordable housing, but there were not specific details put forward, which is admittedly difficult to do in a three-minute public speaking timeframe. 

We have seen this for many different topics in front of the commission in recent years, a request for money without specifics, but with passion that the commission must do something about the issue of the moment. 

I detailed in my column last month, all of the great efforts the county has put forth to create an environment to encourage affordable housing in a free market. It is unfortunate they did not get any great recognition for their work from the public at the commission meeting. The Commission did talk about some of their efforts in their discussion and they reminded the public, it is a free market that they do not control.

I was delighted to see the County Commission insist upon a plan for any affordable housing money allocated that does more than check the box, as Commissioner Christian Ziegler so aptly stated. All of the commission expressed wanting to see results. A victory is not in a pot of money, a victory is having a quantifiable impact. The money should not be spent without a quantifiable impact. 

It is important that plans be in place before any money is finally allocated, as that is what brings trust and faith by the public that the money is being spent appropriately and that there is a return on their investment. It eliminates any suspicion of a slush fund or that money is just being thrown around to mollify certain stakeholders.

The most successful and publicly supported county programs are ones that start with plans crafted with public input, plans that are transparent, and plans that have measurables in their spending. An example is the county surtax, which is allocated to capital programs. The Surtax program has all of those things. Controversy only erupts when money is allocated without plans. 

The commission was unified in its decision about having a plan in the face of passion, and they should be commended for being responsible with this federal funding. It is fiscally responsible to insist upon maximizing impact and having lasting results with these monies. The Argus Foundation supports responsible processes like these when it comes to funding allocations. We appreciate the County Commission’s accountability for this money and their wisdom in wanting impact. 

Christine Robinson is executive director of The Argus Foundation.

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