Mike Thompson writes in the Jefferson Policy Journal today about Prince William County’s indefensible supervisor slush funds, and it’s a good read. I cannot fathom why supervisors haven’t eliminated them during this budget cycle — other than it hasn’t become such a significant campaign issue that someone might lose their job over it — yet. That day will come, however.
Why is it that mature men and women, who are perfectly honest and forthright in their personal, business, civic and church lives, set up a system, or in this case allow a system set up in the past, to continue when it is so obvious that it should end? This use of unbudgeted tax dollars, hundreds of thousands of dollars a year total in these individual Supervisors’ “slush funds,” is asking for ridicule and only adds to the current belief that government and its elected political leaders skate near the line of corruption.
These slush funds are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to elected officials appropriating public funds to non-governmental entities, but it’s perhaps the most egregious example of this morally bankrupt practice. Buying a smattering of votes with a $250 gift to a little league pales in comparison to the nine million dollars Fairfax County hands over every year to charities promoting “affordable housing” but the principle is the same. Tax revenues are supposed to be used to fund government operations, not to support politically-connected charities that can’t seem to raise enough money on their own.
My hope is to take the issue to the General Assembly next session and have them tackle the problem. It’s too widespread to solve just by having Prince William County dump “magisterial district funds” for supervisors, and I’m not much in the mood to wait until supervisors are up for re-election in three years to demonstrate that some of them could lose elections over this issue.
UPDATE: Jeanine Lawson intends to introduce a resolution at the convention on this topic. Her draft is below:
WHEREAS, Republican citizens of Prince William County, Virginia believe in the governing principle of fiscal responsibility and budgetary restraint exercised at all levels of government as stated in the Republican Party Creed; and
WHEREAS, the local governing body known as the Prince William County Board of Supervisors sets annual real estate property tax rates and adopts spending budgets established by the collection of tax revenues; and
WHEREAS, one particular annual budget line item is the appropriation of magisterial district office funds ranging from $322,000 to $350,000 per office; and
WHEREAS, the purpose of these tax payer funds is for staff and office overhead, and
WHEREAS, in recent months a long standing tradition has come to the public’s attention, and
WHEREAS, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors through individual board member initiations from funds made available in their respective district office’s annual operating budget or carried over funds from previous fiscal years, contribute tax payer funded donations to area non profits, athletic and academic teams, and other charitable organizations or individuals; and
WHEREAS, Republican citizens are staunchly committed to the principle of fiscal responsibility and budgetary restraint especially during current times of national and global economic instability
WHEREAS, it is imperative that our local elected officials commit to operating Prince William County’s government with acute stewardship and accountability of tax payer funds; now
THEREFORE, be it resolved, we Prince William County Republican citizens hereby urge the Republican members of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors to immediately eliminate from the FY 2013 budget this practice of donating office funds, often referred to as “discretionary funds” and allocate tax payer funds to their district offices for the sole purpose of staff and normal office overhead thereby reducing their office budgets; now
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the newly elected Chairman of the Prince William County Republican Committee is directed to immediately deliver this resolution to Chairman Corey Stewart, Prince William County Board of Supervisors and the local press.
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