November 27, 2012
Kentucky Auditor Adam Edelen is on to something, we think, with his effort to catalogue the state’s special districts.
For a bit of a refresher, special districts are quasi-government agencies formed with the intention to increase local funds for specific purposes. The Perry County Public Library, for instance, is part of a taxing district governed by a board of directors who, thankfully in our case, have wisely used those taxes for what is an outstanding library.
But in some cases, as is inevitable, these funds aren’t being used wisely by the governing boards of some agencies. Auditor Edelen’s effort to map the state’s special districts, which before was something no one had attempted, turned up what the auditor termed a layer of “ghost government” through which billions of dollars flow, and with little accountability.
What this new database of special districts provides is a tool for accountability for the average Kentuckian to use. Financial reports, for those districts that bothered to respond to the auditor’s survey, are included, as is a wealth of information such as the district’s board members and budgetary figures.
And while the database, which can be found on the state auditor’s website, is far from a perfect tool in that its initial inception included some glaring errors and many districts failed to adequately respond, even now it is certainly a good enough tool that the residents of Kentucky can get a better feel for what these special districts are doing with taxpayer money, and, if needed, call them on it.
Transparency in government, at any level, is a fundamental need for the people. And this effort is one way for added transparency, and one that is needed. That much is sure, considering past cases and the alleged corruption that took place in other districts.
We also think this would be a good time for elected leaders in the legislature to review laws regarding Kentucky’s special districts to ensure that the correct level of accountability is there, and if not, make it so.
— The Hazard Herald