Letter to the Editor: Shedding light on Sunshine Review’s ratings

By Jim Bequette
Beaufort County School District rated third highest in South Carolina for website transparency with an overall A-. This rating was by Sunshine Review, a national nonprofit group that evaluates information provided by school districts, local and state governments.

In contrast, Beaufort County Government received only a C.  Sunshine Review’s grading criteria does not include financial expenditures reporting.  If included in the evaluation, our county likely would have received a D or F.

County general fund quarterly website reports contain over 200 pages of confusing data with a presentation only meant for trained accountants with lots of time. It uses account numbers and detail in a convoluted manner. There is no meaningful data in a few pages as found in the annual audited report.

County website cost reporting on the 1% sales tax referendum for $152 million in road projects is missing altogether. Before the new Lady’s Island bridge and road widening was complete, a councilman had a report showing over-spending of $13 million on this project; however, the website is silent. Apparently some projects were delayed while the county searched for more funding.  Is this poor estimating, poor management or deliberate misleading?

Regular capital expenditure reports have disappeared from the website. These were not of value because many projects had no budget to compare to spending. Some were previously reported without budgets, others were badly overspent. Check the school district’s website for excellent financial reporting each quarter.

Where is County Council and its Finance Committee? Why haven’t they established meaningful policies on financial transparency?

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