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Editorial: Landis budget discussions start off right

In a town where news about local government finances hasn’t been great of late, Landis looks to be trending in the right direction.

The town entered last week having just released data showing its former town manager and finances officer were compensated at rates unheard of for a town whose population is estimated to be about 3,100 by the U.S. Census Bureau. And we wrote an editorial one week ago (“Town board must answer questions, too”) saying the Landis Board of Aldermen could have done more if allegations levied against the ex-staffers prove to be true.

Thursday, still reeling from an ongoing probe by the State Bureau Investigation, the Board of Aldermen seemed to make increase scrutiny a priority during a budget workshop for fiscal year 2020, which begins in July.

A statement by Mayor Pro Tem Tommy Garver, in particular should be seen as a small, but needed, step in the right direction.

“This board and all future boards will need to be and should be much more involved in the financial health going forward, not just twice a year when we get reports,” he said.

We wonder where that same sentiment was last year, when the board held a budget workshop that lasted just three minutes, but Garver is right.

Perhaps the town board should receive a monthly report of bank and credit card transactions that’s included in the agenda packet. Aldermen should certainly do more than show up at meetings, scan the agenda, vote a few times and go home.

The same should be true on town boards across our county. Sure, they pay little to nothing, but that’s not the point of serving on a town or city council. Those running for local government office in search of money or power should look elsewhere.

For Landis, embracing radical transparency and encouraging staff to continue posting all manner of public documents online is another good step to regain the public’s confidence. More than recent questions raised by the Landis Board of Aldermen, staff working to move the town forward deserve praise. In particular, interim finance officer and Deputy Police Chief Roger Hosey has done more to provide transparency to Landis residents than the town has seen in years.

But there’s still more work to do. Thursday was only the first budget meeting. The board must still analyze and approve budget requests in addition to deciding on how to ensure continued oversight. Future members of the Landis Board of Aldermen must be committed to the same.

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