Recently Trumbull Town council members participated in an interesting debate on whether to accept federal and state grant dollars to build a portion of the rails to trails project. The vote to accept the grant won only by a narrow margin.
While it is unusual to see this type of debate in local government, it brings to question, an important issue of ‘who is watching our tax dollar purse strings’? Does government have a handle on what is being spent, and how? Or does departmental spending fragment the overview of how money is spent to the point of no longer being able to recognize or track it effectively?
We saw many examples of abuse under the federal stimulus grants program a few years ago. Money was grabbed by local communities as if it grew on trees, or was raining $1000 bills. In some cases tax dollars were spent on silly or frivolous projects, some of which never even came to fruition in creating jobs as intended (the money still sitting in local accounts)
Is anyone following through and tracking this money?
We may need to work from the top-down, to get our state and national politicians to get a handle on how our money is spent, what actual costs are vs/spending. However, it is a good idea for local communities, to take some responsibility in making sure national and state tax dollars are spent effectively and prudently.
It is not free money, it is after all our own tax dollars we are ‘bidding’ for against other communities.
I am proud that our town council entered into this discussion that will hopefully lead them to just ‘ask a few more questions’ about ‘real’ costs, before spending or accepting grants funded by taxpayer dollars. If it is a project that will in fact improve our local economy, and spending/costs are practical and effective for growth, education, our infrastructure, etc. then perhaps we should feel ‘just’ in taking the money back, until a better system is put in place. But we should also act responsibly and not just ‘grab’ whatever we can.
We can only hope that someday a system will be in place to better monitor that our tax dollars do not go to building overpriced ‘water fountains’ during poor economic times. A system where there will be follow up, and cost/benefit analysis to make sure money was spent as was intended.