Additional oversight not always popular, but is responsible

It will be easy for some to make political hay by going after a few city commissioners who voted against giving additional dollars, ones that were already budgeted, to Grand Central or the Newton Senior Center.

However, asking questions about increases in funding requests is what city commissioners should do.

Grand Central asked the commission for $25,000 for its 2017 fiscal budget. That was a $10,000 increase over its request for funding last year.

Commissioners at the time of the request brought up concerns about a lack of long term planning at the senior center in regard to the building it’s located in and what it plans to do about a heating, venting and air conditioning system on its last leg.

Commissioners also wanted to see a budget plan for the senior center.

During those deliberations, the commission decided to fund Grand Central at the prior year’s level and then consider allocating additional requested funds after receiving a presentation from the senior center.

At a December meeting, members of the senior center did present a budget plan to the commission.

Mayor Barth Hague brought up issues he saw with the center’s budget that he said used a third of funds on fundraising with little return. Commissioner Kathy Valentine said that she didn’t think the presented plan for the senior center addressed the HVAC system or made plans for the future.

Both voted at the last meeting against allocating additional funds to Grand Central.

During that deliberation, Commissioners Glen Davis and David Nygaard argued for allocating additional funds to the senior center, stressing the importance of Newton’s senior citizens and that the city should support such residents.

Davis said that he’d rather see additional funds go to the senior center than the Newton Chamber of Commerce and asked why Grand Central had to jump through hoops to provide the commission with a report, while other organizations the commission funded did not.

Grand Central administration should count themselves fortunate to have advocates like Davis and Nygaard on the commission. Davis is correct in saying the commission should question all organizations that the city provides additional funding to.

However, Hague and Valentine did their duty as stewards of taxpayer dollars when requesting more information and accountability from an organization asking for public funds.

That accountability should be applied to all organizations, even the ones that invoke emotional attachments throughout the community.

Eventually, the commission voted 3-2 to give additional funds to Grand Central. That could be the right decision. But we appreciate the effort of commissioners to look into an issue and try to get answers before simply writing a blank check. It might not be a popular viewpoint, but it’s a responsible one.