As you can tell from our last couple of papers, this is shaping up to be one of the most exciting summers this community has enjoyed in quite some time. We’ve already seen a re-enactment of a historic lynching, celebrated in the sun at RPM Days and hosted a couple of lights-out (and on) baseball tournaments. And we’ve still got most of the summer to go— including a no-holds-barred 4th of July celebration highlighted by a performance from one of the fastest-rising stars in country music.
So with all of that said, this week we would like to encourage you to read the most boring part of the paper.
We’re talking, of course, about the Legal Notices on pages 14 and 15, but we don’t just want you to read them this week. We want you to make reading them every week a habit because it presents news in its purest and simplest form and, as such, is your best defense against “fake news.”
We would like to draw your attention to one notice in this week’s paper in particular to demonstrate how valuable these notices can be in helping you to really understand local government and how much is spent on the services it provides to you. Halfway down the left side of page 14 is a notice for the upcoming hearing on the city’s proposed budget. We are not drawing your attention to the notice because we think there is anything wrong with the budget, but encourage you to read it because it presents a simple summary of how the city’s money is spent each year.
You will notice that nearly half of Newcastle’s $7 million budget is spent on what are called enterprise accounts— water, sewer and garbage. Those are the things you pay for on your city utility bill, and by law they are supposed to be self-sufficient, meaning your payments should cover the cost of their operation. When the cost of one of those operations increases, so does your bill. It really is supposed to be that easy.
That leaves a little less than $4 million to provide for the rest of the services provided by city government, and you can see in the notice how those monies are distributed by category. Again, we offer no judgement on this budget, but encourage you to look at it and see if it is in line with what you believe our community’s priorities should be.
We think an election year is a good time to raise your awareness and knowledge of government, and strongly encourage you to use the raw information provided by public notices as a baseline to help you better understand the issues that will be presented to you by candidates for local office this summer.