With all of the talk about sales tax increases, the rise in gas tax and a possible, additional vehicle tag fee for the county, most people have begun to wonder where all of that money is going.

Like a lot of people, I live paycheck to paycheck. What I bring home after taxes and insurance are taken out is far from impressive. It’s tough to hear that more will be taken away. But, what I think would ease my mind, and the minds of others, is if we could see exactly where and how the money we pay was being used.

I am very aware how difficult it is to keep up with spending, tracking funds and the accountability of spending, but it can be done. A little-known fact: I worked as an earned value management (EVM) analyst for a government contracting company. And in case you don’t know what that is, I’ll tell you. In EVM, one has to conduct cost analysis, risk analysis, scheduling analysis and be able to help with the accountability of funds and time spent by anyone working in a certain project or program. Based on a comparison of work performed verses work planned, an EVM analyst can forecast what’s going to happen with a project. Many people say that EVM is “accounting on steroids.”

Since I have this experience, I can tell you that if there’s accurate accountability and records, people feel a lot better about the money they’re spending. If I could help keep up with 11 projects and the billions of dollars being spent, I think our city, county and state leaders should be able to handle their records and be able to explain to us where the money is going in detail.

Now, the “Average Joe” may not be able to follow spreadsheets and equations, so it would be most important that the spending be explained in a way that everyone could easily understand. All we need is to be told that when we pay in “X” amount, they spend “Y” amount and what the result of that spending was. If our government and leaders can’t explain to us what they are spending our money on, then why do we keep shelling out our hard-earned money to them?

Let me break this down for you. Let’s say you take your car to a mechanic. He tells you that you will have to pay him by the hour for labor, plus the cost of the parts he puts into the car to fix it. You pay the man for eight hours’ worth of labor, but he only works seven hours and then tells you that you owe him $4,000 for parts. So, you ask him what parts he put in your car, but he says he can’t tell you what parts he used, where he got them from or why he worked less hours than you paid him for. Would you pay him? If you did, just so you could get your car back, would you want to go back to him the next time your car needs maintenance? I bet you wouldn’t want to pay him, you might even sue him and you surely wouldn’t want to use his services ever again.

Well, why is it so different from the people we pay to run our country, county and cities? It shouldn’t be. We foot the bill, we pay their salaries (in most cases) and they ask for more without much proof that the money they’ve already spent was spent well. So, how do we change this? We have to let our government know what we are willing and not willing to accept. We have to be involved, knowledgeable about what’s going on and willing to act on our conscience. If we want things to change, we have to start with ourselves. We then have to step up and challenge “the way it’s always been.” Because if that way was working, we wouldn’t be in debt, and we wouldn’t have to keep paying more for the same services, or lack thereof.

Nickie Simpson is a staff writer for The Reporter. She can be reached at nickie.simpson@sandmountainreporter.com.

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