How hands-on do you want your elected officials to be?
That’s a timely topic, in the wake of questions surrounding audits of the Killeen municipal budget and the Killeen school district’s special education department.
It’s also a relevant question to ask voters, as the city’s municipal and school board elections are just over a month away.
In a March 27 Herald article, Killeen City Council members, as well as candidates in the May 7 election, were asked how involved council members should be in overseeing the city’s finances.
Their answers varied widely — with some members saying they wanted to be heavily involved and others saying they want to avoid micromanaging city staff on budget issues.
Council candidates’ answers varied as well, with most favoring a more hands-on approach, but others saying it was the council’s job to pass the budget, but not to micromanage the city manager.
With City Manager Glenn Morrison stepping down this week, questions about how the next city administration and council work together on budget issues are well worth asking.
Herald readers spoke up, loud and clear, when asked in an online poll if council members should be heavily involved in monitoring a city’s budget.
More than 67 percent of respondents said council members should be fully involved in the process; another 18 percent agreed with the statement that budgeting is clearly the most important function of a city council.
Less than 10 percent of respondents said council members should only concern themselves with large expenditures, and 2.4 percent said city staff should be trusted to keep finances in order.
Clearly, a hands-on council seems to be the preferred choice of poll participants.
But the same questions also hold for the Killeen Independent School District board of trustees and the candidates seeking three open board seats in May.
The school district recently received an audit of its special education department, which is under scrutiny following a Texas Education Agency investigation last year.
The school board authorized spending about $100,000 for the outside audit, but questions linger surrounding revisions to the audit since it was first received in January.
Further, by using a three-member subcommittee to review the initial audit report, the district was allowed to keep the document out of the public domain, since the full board had not seen it.
It’s worth asking board candidates — including the three incumbents who comprise the subcommittee — whether keeping important working documents out of the hands of the full board is acceptable, both in terms of financial accountability and transparency.
Again, how hands-on should the board members be?
The owner of a $150,000 home pays about $1,125 in property taxes to the city each year. That same homeowner pays another $1,695 to Killeen ISD, so voters should know how the candidates view their fiduciary responsibilities.
In the coming weeks, the Herald will be asking the school board candidates how they view the role of board trustee and how they would serve their constituents.
It’s important that you, the voters, pay close attention to their answers.
An election is technically a job interview. Candidates are auditioning for us. It’s up to the voters as to whether they get hired.
Leading up to the election, the Herald will offer a host of information online at kdhnews.com/centerforpolitics — including candidate Q&As, biographical information and candidate videos.
The Herald also will host a political forum for Killeen council and mayoral candidates on April 18 at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center beginning at 6 p.m.
Finally, the Herald will offer a special election package in the April 24 edition.
Casting your vote is important, but being an informed voter is crucial.
That’s the only way to choose the right candidate for the job.