Jul 20, 07 LTE (Oak Ridger) City Council’s Obligation

Should City Council inquire about specifics in the OR School Budget?

There have been a lot of public statements made that our City Council has “no business” even looking at, let alone questioning, specific line items in the School Budget. For the life of me, I cannot understand the basis of this belief.

Our City Charter states that council “cannot modify or delete any item in the OR School Budget.” It does not say that City Council cannot ask questions or comment on the line items. It does, however, state that the School Board is obligated to “cooperate with the city council, city manager, and other officials of the city government…in programs leading to improvements and economies in the public services provided the residents and taxpayers.”

The City Council is our elected, authorized body charged with adopting the city budget. As such, they have the power of taxation. They are who we pay and they are the stewards of our money. Good stewardship dictates a full knowledge and understanding of how those funds will be spent. It is only with this understanding that a governing body can responsibly determine how much funding is acceptable and fair with consideration to other city needs.

The School Board has stated on more than one occasion “We are not a city service.” While technically that may be true, it means nothing. They are subject to the City Charter and are under the auspices of the City Council from whom they demand and receive funds – our taxes.

To put it plainly, we give the City Council our money – not the School Board – and they decide how to spend it. If they are going to spend our money wisely, then council must be afforded the ability to ask questions without question.

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