The Snitch in the Room
It sits quietly on the sidebar of the Lake Park Town website on the Finance Department page, static, innocuous and silent. Who would imagine that untold secrets lie deep in the heart of such a wallflower? Well, I’ve heard it said you should always watch out for the quiet ones. Seems it’s true.
My personal bet would have been that this link would be the yawner it makes itself out to be. Seeing as I do tend to judge a book by it’s cover, my first impression from this one’s title is one of indifference. I prefer a more flashy read, something story driven and exciting. I’m thinking something with some drama or intrigue, a tale with some twists, turns and secrets all about to unravel that would change the course of a town. I’d want a story that would make me wonder if there was a bad guy lurking or a hero waiting in the wings to save the day, not unending columns of financial accounts.
I might think about reading the town budget if I was having trouble sleeping…but otherwise I tend to balk at being drug through a labyrinth of numbers and mind-numbing calculations. It may not have made it to the top of your reading list either…unless of course you have decided to engage in your duty as a citizen and ask a few questions beginning at the steps of your local town hall. Or maybe you’ve decided to follow the Lake Park Town money in an effort to know who, what, when, where and WHY. In that case, you might find this little wallflower to be an intriguing story indeed.
I decided to begin asking a few questions. So despite my initial feelings about financial documents, I double-clicked on the link camouflaged as banal bureaucratic paperwork. I skimmed through the seemingly unending pages of numbers and wondered how on earth anyone without an accounting background could ever slog through, much less make sense of the contents even if they cared to try. I started out at a snail’s pace, but as the numbers turned to tax dollars in my mind, I began to see a story unfold. As I associated my value received as a resident in relation to my contribution to the quickly mounting totals, the mundane became thought-provoking. What are they spending my money on and why? Do I agree with those numbers? Strangely, the figures began to come to life almost like characters weaving a tale. Wait just a darn minute, I thought. There’s a story in here.
It turns out the The Town of Lake Park’s Complete Adopted Budget FY10/11 is quite the blabbermouth and it’s willing to tell its story to those who care to sit and listen. It answers some questions, yes, but more importantly, it begs us to ask many more. It’s the snitch in the room whispering clues and letting us know there might be other hints lying elsewhere. “Follow the money”, it says.
After reading the budget, I realized it’s merely one chapter of a much larger story. There are other chapters with equally boring titles holding who knows what within, such as :
- CRA Adopted Budget FY 10/11 (that ought to be good!)
- 2009 CAFR (huh?)
- Lake Park Procurement Policy (ooh, can’t wait for that chapter) and the always popular
- Handbook of Procedures for Employees of the Town of Lake Park (This 139 page read begins to solidify who the characters are and how those rows of numbers play into their story lines. It begs even more questions.)
- Lake Park Presentation 8-18-09 (aka Lake Park Design Approach Manual 2009)
Yet, somewhere it seems there must be some missing volumes, like Employee Job Descriptions, which it seems would offer further needed clues. Who knows where the rest of the chapters are buried.
So how would someone to whom the outcome of this story matters (i.e., Lake Park residents) find out what their ending might hold if the plot is chopped up and the chapters spread around here and there, each needing to be sought like treasure and exhumed?
Sounds like we need to go on a treasure hunt and put some pieces together until the twists and turns and storyline makes sense. It’s our town, it’s our story. It may take many of us to find all the pieces and weave the story together. I don’t have the answers, but I sure am accumulating a lot of questions. And that is a great place to begin.
It’s our responsibility to know. It’s our job to ask and to hold our town leaders accountable. If we find this is a success story of goodness and integrity and happily ever afters, then we’ll celebrate! But first we need to find all the chapters and read them.
For your reading pleasure I present you the following:
Here are the page numbers for just some of the characters in the Lake Park Budget story that you might find interesting. By all means, don’t stop with these. There are others. I challenge you to read on and on…
Town Manager: 19
Town Manager’s Assistant: 19
Grant Writer: 19
Human resource director: 23
Town Clerk: 27
Town Attorney: 29
Chief Information/Technology Officer: 33
Finance Director: 37, 38
Recreation Director: 69
Art Director: ? I couldn’t find this but I haven’t read the CRA budget yet. Maybe it is there.
Art Director Assistant: ? Ditto
The Handbook of Procedures for the Employees of the Town of Lake Park (You might be interested to know how much it money it took to write and produce this chapter in the town’s tale. I’m just saying… ask and you will find interesting things.)
For further reading, see the sidebar on the following pages of the Town’s website:
Here you will find meeting minutes, ordinances, agenda packets and a link for making a records request
Got concerns? Share them in the comments section. It is our job to know what’s going on, do our own homework, ask questions and hold our town leaders accountable.