Madison County Opinion...

 January 31, 2001

By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
January 31, 2001

Frankly Speaking

Sticking to the budget process is crucial
Someone has to have the authority and responsibility to oversee the collection and spending of all public funds. The recent problems with the Madison County school system funding are due to a failure by the board of education to properly monitor school spending.
There are now reports of county officials who are collecting and spending funds without going through the board of commissioners and the budgeting process. These funds are created through surcharges on various fees and penalties, activity fees and other sources. Most of these funds are dedicated to specific use. For example, a surcharge on bail bonds goes to finance jail operations. Activity fees are used to pay for recreational programs. Other surcharges go to retirement programs for several elected officials.
All of these accounts need to be reported to the board for their review and information. While they are dedicated to specific uses, the board must have an opportunity to see that they are used for those purposes. Any surpluses in these accounts should be placed in the county's general fund.
One type of fund cannot be allowed. No county department or official has a right to divert any undedicated funds for the use of their department without going through the budget process. Even if funds generated by one department are to be used within that department, they still have to be reported and budgeted.
I have no reason to believe that such funds are being abused. Everything I hear is that these funds are being spent for the benefit of the citizens of this county, or to provide needed benefits for county employees. That is fine.
But the fact that unreported funds are not being abused at this time does not assure that future officials will not misuse them. Nor do we, the people who pay these monies, know how they are being used. To protect us from future abuse, and to assure the rights of the people to be fully informed, all funds collected by any department of county government must be reported, reviewed and budgeted by the board of commissioners.
The only way we, the taxpayers, can be assured that our money is being collected and spent properly is for all funds to be reported, budgeted and published. It is, after all, our money. We have a right to demand accurate accounting and supervision of these funds. Every elected official and department head needs to check their records and make sure all funds are "on the books."
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at His e-mail address is


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By Margie Richards
The Madison County Journal
January 31, 2001

A Moment with Margie

A typical January
Things are progressing in typical fashion at the Richards house this January.
Each member of the family celebrated the holidays with some type of cold or sniffles. But that was just a portent of things to come and after years of the same pattern, we all knew it.
Sure enough, as soon as my daughter Miranda returned to college she promptly settled into the middle of a flu epidemic.
She called me on a Wednesday afternoon to inform me that several in her dorm suite were falling victim.
"Are you sick?" I asked.
"No, (cough, cough) I'm not sick....I just wanted to warn you about what's going on," she replied.
"You sound like you're getting sick," I said, my mother radar picking up definite signals, with an ominous feeling in the pit of my stomach.
"No, I'm fine," she assured me.
The next afternoon the phone rang again. (This in itself is an unusual phenomenon - when things are fine I don't hear from my daughter this often.)
She told me that she was now, sure enough, running a "low grade" fever, but was "OK."
"You don't sound okay, why don't I come and get you?" I offered. But she assured me that although she was having chills, she would rest overnight and besides, she had an important day in class on Friday.
Despite my better judgment, I agreed to wait.
About 8 p.m. I received another call ­ this time the fever was higher. Charles said we should go get her, despite the fact that the fog outside was like pea soup.
Instead, I settled on calling her every few hours throughout the night to check on her.
I picked her up as soon as possible the next day and drove her straight to the doctor's office - where, through this new test, she was pronounced to have the "flu."
Great, I thought, I've been riding around the entire afternoon with the flu - not only that, but my car was literally "loaded" with the infection - clothing, bedding and dishes - all that my thoughtful daughter had brought home to disinfect.
I called ahead to let the guys know what we were headed home with. I made a pit stop at the store for Miranda's prescription and cough medicine, some Lysol, various other disinfectants and Vitamin C lozenges for the rest of us.
When we arrived home, Miranda went to lie down while I unloaded the car. No one else wanted to touch the stuff, besides, I was already "contaminated."
Her loving brother Zack met us at the door with - I kid you not ­ a mask on. You know, one of those things you wear over your nose and mouth to keep out the pollen and dust in the summertime.
Miranda told him she didn't know when she had felt so loved.
He responded by following her down the hall spraying Lysol and telling her not to touch anything she didn't have to.
He took over as the "germ patrol." This, the same boy whose room is a bona fide disaster area most of the time. He chided us all about washing our hands and sprayed the bathroom each time his sister came out of it.
Something must have worked for him. Charles came down sick the next day and I now have a sinus infection, but Zack remains uninfected with anything (so far).
But if things follow along on course, I know we are not through yet.
After all, winter still has a way to go.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for the Madison County Journal.
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