Now is the time for the USD 231 board members to stand up and shine a little light on the budget process.
While other public entities host public budget workshops – including neighboring Spring Hill – USD 231’s budget process is cloaked in secrecy.
Although the district’s Finance Committee was originally formed to help promote transparency — according to minutes obtained through a Kansas Open Records (KORA) request – only one district patron and two elected officials serve on the committee.
Because the committee deliberately does not meet the quorum requirements of the Kansas Open Meetings Act, district officials are not required to publish notice of the meetings, although they will provide the information if asked.
It took this newspaper three separate written requests and $192 to find out the committee’s next meeting date is July 30.
To be fair, the KORA request also included a brief history of the committee including when formed, recent minutes, meeting date and membership roster. We also received the monthly expense report, which the newspaper routinely pays about $40 for – although other public entities supply this at no charge online.
We’ve asked before, what is USD 231’s obsession with control and secrecy?
Why put up the roadblocks to transparency?
But instead of answering – as we again invite board members to do on the editorial page of this newspaper – the district responded by increasing the cost of public records to  district patrons at their July 16 meeting.
Although the tentative one-page agenda available before the meeting did not mention an increase in fees, the increase reared its ugly head on the agenda available to patrons who attended the meeting, and it was rubber-stamped.
School officials should keep in mind they are only the custodians of public records, not the owner. Those records are already paid for once by taxpayers when they are generated.
Apparently the “reasoning” for the higher price was in response to an increased request for public records that was taking up staff time.
Maybe elected officials should ask why patrons are making more requests.
Could it be the recent news that the district’s bond rating had been lowered, or rumors that circulate about teacher layoffs and staff morale?
Really, it shouldn’t matter why patrons are requesting public documents. An informed electorate can be a blessing.
And if the increased requests are “burdensome” publish more information online and keep it up-to-date and archived.
Gardner Edgerton residents are fortunate to have one of the best districts in the state. We have good teachers, good support staff, and our children receive a good education.
So again, we ask: Why the secrecy?
Pat yourself on the back; put the process out for all to witness.
Don’t just talk about transparency while throwing out roadblocks.
Now is the time to stand up and shine.