From 2005 through 2007, the Cultural Alliance received $5 million annually from the county, even though the revenue did not exist to support the expenditure. Instead, Jefferson County shifted money from capital projects to the county’s general fund. The county then funded the Cultural Alliance from the shifted money.
The shuffled funds would have been within the purview of the Jefferson County Finance Committee. Between 2004 and 2006, when the budgets were drafted, the members of the committee were then-Commission President Larry Langford, Commissioner Gary White and Commissioner Mary Buckelew.
Using one-time sources of revenue, such as a bond issue, to pay for continuing expenses is a proscribed budgeting practice, especially in the public sector. The shuffle could even have been illegal, depending on the purpose of the bonds as defined by the county and its lenders.
Commissioner Jim Carns, who now serves on the finance committee, said he raised the issue last year when he couldn’t determine the source of the arts funding in the operating budget.
“I said something about it at least twice while Commissioner Langford was still here, but it was ignored,” Carns said Tuesday.
Since then, officials from the finance and budget offices had explained the arrangement to him, Carns said.
The county has come under fire for cutting funding to the Cultural Alliance last year.
“This commission has been beaten up by people who are fond of the Cultural Alliance,” Carns said. “However, we have to make sure that we’re spending this money the right way.”