Make Service To Vets Priority

Like most public officials in our area, Jefferson County commissioners are eager to do all in their power to help veterans of military service. To their credit, commissioners want every dollar in county funds to do as much good for veterans as possible.

So commissioners were absolutely right in asking questions about funds sent to the county Veterans Service Commission.

Commissioners had offered to provide $500,000 for the agency for this year. But last week, VSC Director Schelley Brooks asked for $537,000. That prompted commissioners to examine the agency’s spending – and what they found ought to raise eyebrows.

Since 2010, the agency’s annual spending on services to veterans has increased from $123,276 to $147,500 – an increase of 19.6 percent.

During the same period, according to commissioners, spending on salaries at the agency has increased from $261,373 in 2010 to $347,381 now. That is an increase of nearly 33 percent. Few public-sector employees and officials have enjoyed raises at anything approaching that level.

Commissioners also pointed out other areas of concern about spending. In the end, commissioners agreed to provide the $537,000 sought by the Veterans Service Commission. Undoubtedly, they wanted to guard against any reduction in services to veterans.

But they were right to question spending at the agency – and should keep an eye on it. Spending on services to veterans, not salaries, should be the priority.