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Editorial: Change needed in Landis after state’s letter

Landis is no stranger to attracting unwanted attention for financial matters, and news reported in Sunday’s Salisbury Post should serve as a sign that further change is needed in the south Rowan town.

As Post reporter Liz Moomey wrote Sunday (“Landis attracts state’s concern on spending issue”), the town looks to forfeit more than $1 million in federal government money after initially trying to use funds awarded by the USDA for a water line. Landis also attracted scrutiny from the Local Government Commission late last year when trying to proceed with the project.

It wasn’t the federal government money, however, that drew the state’s attention. Rather, the Local Government Commission, which performs financial oversight of local governments across North Carolina, wrote a letter in September expressing concern about the fact that Landis overspent its budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, which ended in June.

Police equipment — where Landis overspent its budget by 655 percent or nearly $250,000 — was one particular area of concern. Town Manager Reed Linn said police vehicles represented part of the overspending.

Linn’s response to the LGC’s concerns was that the town simply did not make its budget amendments until the end of the fiscal year. The records being reviewed by the LGC represented numbers from before the end of the fiscal year, Linn said. As such, revenue didn’t match expenses.

That practice is different than towns across Rowan County and North Carolina. When there are unbudgeted expenditures, it only makes sense to adjust financial documents to reflect that. Meanwhile, if budgeted expenses are increasing by hundreds of percentage points at the end of the fiscal year, what’s the point of a budget anyway?

Sure, as town officials have said, Landis has financial issues that date back years, but that’s not an excuse for failing to make needed change. In this case, the change needed appears to be as simple as making budget amendments throughout the year rather than all at once at the end, and we were glad to see Linn say in Sunday’s story that the town would begin to do that.

For the many Landis residents already concerned about the amount of money coming out of their pocketbooks to pay for taxes and electricity, we hope that Linn’s statement is backed up by action.

What’s more, members of the Landis Board of Alderman must hold staff’s feet to the fire and ask tough questions when needed — whether that’s in public or private. For the residents and businesses of Landis, staff and members of the Board of Aldermen must do better.

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