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County cant always shift funding as it might like to
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Forsyth County News
Even in the best of times, understanding the complexities of taxation and funding for government projects and day-to-day operations can be difficult. In the current economic climate, it’s no wonder some people are confused about what’s going on with their tax dollars.

The Forsyth County government is no exception, as evidenced by recent events which may leave some local residents exasperated.

On the one hand, the county faces the possibility of a new library branch that can’t open because it doesn’t have operational funds; on the other, it’s spending nearly $300,000 more than expected to improve greeen space walking trails that haven’t even opened yet.

In recent months, the county has been on a buying binge for new park and recreational property, spending millions, while at the same time facing the harsh reality of having to eliminate employees in order to save half a million dollars a year.

It’s enough to make an accountant scratch his head, and county residents to wonder what’s going on.

But there’s no financial conspiracy on the spending front that has county officials putting money into what may seem less essential projects while higher priorities are going without. It’s all about the source from which the funding comes — and what the voters have told their elected leadership to do.

The millions spent over the past year to increase county ownership of green space properties and to improve parks and recreational venues are designated specifically for those sorts of projects because of a bond approved by the voters. That money cannot be used for other purposes, no matter how dire the county’s financial picture may be.

Similarly, money collected by the county for SPLOST projects much be spent on those projects presented to the voters for SPLOST referendum. If SPLOST collections fall short, as they certainly are, some of those projects may not be financed, but whatever money is raised by SPLOST must by law go to the defined projects.

With both the bond vote and the SPLOST, county officials are doing what the voters approved to be done, and have no leeway in shifting those funds to other areas.

When county residents wonder why walking paths are being built through undeveloped properties even though the county’s jail is overcrowded and employee cuts are possible in the sheriff’s office, the answer is that county officials are doing what the voters instructed them to do. Higher taxes for parks were approved by county residents; funding for a new jail repeatedly has been turned down.

How members of the county commission choose to spend those funds over which they do have discretion is certainly worthy of healthy public debate, but they don’t deserve to be criticized for not shifting money from one project to another if they are legally prevented from doing so.