AFTER lending the Putnam County Board of Health $30,000 to pay its bills, the Putnam County Commission adopted a policy to prevent fiscal surprises and boost accountability.
From now on, five county agencies that receive public money via the commission will have to turn in quarterly budgets and send someone to give the commission an update on their budgets six months after the annual budget meeting in March.
Such a requirement is overdue.
The Putnam County Health Department, development authority, parks and recreation commission, library and community corrections all receive money through the county commission.
While one of the commissioners represents the county on the board of each agency, the commission as a whole needs an explanation - in public. Taxpayers need to know where their money goes and why.
The commission had to give $30,000 to the health agency to cover "immediate costs," as Commissioner Andy Skidmore put it.
This happened after Joel McKinney took over as the head of the agency in February and found the agency struggling to pay its rent due to legal fees associated with a wrongful termination suit.
Also, in 2011, the department moved into a larger building in the Teays Valley Corporate Center. The department hoped to expand the health clinic, but that initiative has run into trouble.
The agency's board has asked McKinney to seek emergency funding from the state Department of Health and Human Resources.
The county commission also asked the state to audit the health department's finances in addition to the routine audit of the county's books.
This problem is a reminder that agency administrators must be careful with the public's money.
All these agencies perform a service for the public and can make a good case for more funding. But there is only so much money to go around.
County commissions have to make tough decisions. Regular reports from these agencies - in public - should help commissioners make wise ones.