The Putnam County town of Russellville will have to pass a town spending ordinance in order to continue operating after the state Department of Local Government Finance rejected the town’s budget. Officials say the state sent back the budget because the town failed to follow required advertising procedures.
State statute requires town councils publicly advertise the dates of their budget hearings ten days and three days before the actual hearing so that members of the public will be aware and can attend.
Russellville held its town budget hearing on November 6 of last year, and advertised the meeting in the community newspaper on October 24 and November 7.
Department of Local Government Finance Communications Specialist Amanda Stanley says informing the public a day after the meeting doesn’t do anyone any good.
“Because you’re advertising the public hearing that has already taken place. And the goal is to give the taxpayers enough notice that they can comment on or get their questions answered regarding the rate,” Stanley said.
Don Reddish, Russellville town council president, said he thinks the state is wrong and that they town “did everything by the book,” saying DLGF employees “think their job makes them a god.”
But Stanley said that’s not true.
“Their second ad…was the day after the public hearing, which clearly does not meet the requirements because you’re advertising the public hearing that has already taken place,” she said.
Stanley said Russellville leaders do have the option of asking for a review of the denial if they really think the state has made a mistake, but otherwise the town must pass a spending ordinance to continue operation.
“Property tax dollars will still be collected, but they will just not have a budget. And if you haven’t budgeted for something, you can’t spend it. They’ll have to get an ordinance adopted locally, and that will have to be filed with us. And we will approve additional appropriations up to the available fund balance,” she said.
The DLGF says it will have to review the new budget proposal to make sure it is properly advertised.