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Transparency is critical for good government

There’s something to be said for governments that value transparency. Letting the people know exactly what they’re doing, why they’re doing what they’re doing and how they’re going about doing what they’re doing, is important. After all, it’s taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars that pay for practically everything the government does.

That said, local governments need to be just as open as our state and federal governments. It should be fairly simple to be upfront about a municipality’s activities when its constituency is so close by, so present. That’s a good thing, and something we hope continues to be the trend in the towns and villages here in the Harlem Valley.

A great example of the transparency we’re talking about is the fact that all municipalities release the salaries of their employees and officials — from town supervisor and mayor to town/village clerk and highway superintendent to assessor and tax collector. 

It’s important the public be privy to that information. Again, it’s taxpayer money — and people have a right to know how it is being spent.

The pay of municipal workers is released when towns and villages reorganize. For most, that’s at the start of the new year. Some villages, though, work off of a different fiscal year, and their salaries are released accordingly.

Doing so allows the public a chance to see if salaries are reasonable and if they fairly represent the work of those in our town and village halls. In essence, the public is the employer, and employers regularly know their employees’ pay and benefits. So, too, should taxpayers.

There’s a certain sense of accountability on the part of our public servants when their pay is made known. We wouldn’t want to pay good money for poor performance, and in most cases, we don’t. But it’s wise to keep a watchful eye, and let those serving know that we are keeping track of dollars and cents.

Here in the Harlem Valley, our local leaders don’t make a heck of a lot of money. Their dedication to their jobs comes from within — from a deep desire to serve their friends and neighbors so that everyone can live in a community that’s vibrant and healthy. For that, we thank them.

And we commend their openness — their determination to be as transparent as possible year after year, term after term. It’s through such practices that the public can weigh in on salaries and pay scales. Residents are encouraged to attend regular budget meetings, held when the fiscal documents are being drafted. There are annual public hearings held on the budget, too — a chance to voice pleasure or discontent. 

So, if you see the salaries on this week’s front page and take umbrage, remember that come the end of the year. But, if like most, you see the salaries and simply feel appreciation for those who spend their time and energy to serve for little pay or glory, why not say thanks? It’s important we show our appreciation and respect — or else we may run out of people willing to serve — and then we’d really have to pay a hefty price.