Letter: SRDC questions and concerns persistAs I read Jayme Trusty’s letter last Friday in the Daily Globe, the first thought I had is if his implications I had used inaccurate information in my editorial — which all came directly from his proposed budget summary received from my local auditor’s office — were true, maybe an independent audit of his operation is in order.
By: Luke Johnson, Pipestone County Commissioner, Holland, Worthington Daily Globe
As I read Jayme Trusty’s letter last Friday in the Daily Globe, the first thought I had is if his implications I had used inaccurate information in my editorial — which all came directly from his proposed budget summary received from my local auditor’s office — were true, maybe an independent audit of his operation is in order.
Next, Mr. Trusty speaks of bringing in $8 to every $1 of local tax dollar investment. In the 2009 budget, which was approved at last Thursday’s annual meeting, the nine county total levy was $507,080. Of this amount, $275,000 of this is for operational expenses, and $232,080 is a special levy to cover the interest and principal payments for the failed Prairie Expo project — which resulted in an $8 million loss for taxpayers. I preciously understated the size of this payment as $204,922, rather than the correct amount of $219,844. The remainder left from the special levy goes into either an allowance for delinquencies or a reserve for future bond payments. If the $8 to $1 rule is accurate — as discussed by Mr. Trusty — where is the $4 million dollars in the current year’s budget?
This year’s budget shows total revenues of $1,264,313. Shouldn’t we be entitled to a public accounting of approximately $20 million you claim to have brought in over the last five years?
There were some mitigating factors regarding a portion of my concerns I would like to address. Nearly $475,000 in SRDC’s line item for salaries are pass-through dollars from the state to support the Minnesota Agency On Aging and the Senior Linkage Line. These are admirable services operated by dedicated, competent staff members who are quite caring in their efforts to assist the elderly. One recommendation I would make to SRDC would be to do a better job of isolating these pass-through dollars in the budget summary, or better yet, include a full committee packet in advance to all county auditors’ offices rather than the one-page budget summary that is currently distributed in advance. Furthermore, I found it a bit disturbing that people who did not receive the full packet prior to the annual meeting were given an additional 50-plus pages of material with the comment, “We’ll give you a minute to look this over before we vote on its approval.” After hearing no questions or comments from the 36 committee members who sit on the SRDC board, I wondered how many of them had read the 50+ pages prior to the meeting.
The Southwest Regional Development Commission also has an annual agreement with Minnesota Department of Transportation to assist with regional transportation planning. In 2006, our local District 8 committed $22 million in federal highway funding, along with an additional $7 million in state highway funding designated for District 8 projects to the Paynesville bypass project — a project that lies outside District 8. If this is an example of how SRDC is looking out for the interests of southwest Minnesota, people may begin to understand my concerns with the agency.
For those who attended last week’s annual meeting and heard it begin with Jay Trusty’s comment, “I’m sure the top question on everyone’s mind is, what’s for dinner?”, I for one quickly lost my appetite when thinking about the entitlement mentality of the host director.