To the editor: During the past six years as county commissioner, I have worked hard and even have fought several heated battles in an effort to cut wasteful county spending, eliminate unnecessary positions and reduce the county budget all to benefit the taxpayers of Northumberland County. I believe my record speaks for itself and shows the success achieved at getting rid of most of the fat in the county budget.

As a result of my willingness to fight on behalf of the county taxpayer, many citizens have brought complaints to me over the waste of their tax dollars by their local municipal governments. These citizens tell me they feel powerless or fear they will be intimidated if they raise these issues with their mayors, councilmen or supervisors. They also tell me they know that I am willing to take on any fight on behalf a taxpayer and have asked to me to look into wasteful spending by their local governments.

I have been contacted by several residents of the City of Shamokin who have expressed concerns over wasteful spending and misuse and abuse of their tax dollars. They pointed out that the city seems to go to court quite often seeking to raise the limit at which they can tax their residents. One concern pointed out to me was the receipt by the elected officials, mayor, councilmen and even the solicitor, of fully paid health benefits. I was amazed to find this to be true. Unlike at the county level where we are forced by state law to pay health benefits, which is one of the reasons I now want to reduce county elected officials' salaries, most elected officials, especially at the local level are part-time employees at best and few if any local governments, businesses or organizations pay part-time employees full health and medical benefits.

I have been repeatedly trying for several months to find out how much taxpayer money is being spent to pay for health benefits for the mayor, each councilman and the solicitor of the City of Shamokin but the city has fought me at every turn. I know that for the county, it costs over $20,000 a year for health benefits for a family, over $16,000 a year for two-person insurance and over $8,000 a year for single person. I have learned most, if not all, elected Shamokin officials and their solicitor have received these benefits for years, with most receiving the family or two-person plans. Since 2007, for the currently elected officials and solicitor, the amount paid out for these officials since they have been in their positions approaches a half-million of taxpayer dollars. This is crazy, this is wasteful and shows the arrogance of these officials to cost the taxpayers this much money.

They have their cell phone perks as well and get some reimbursement for that. I have been taken to task in the media and at a commissioners' meeting by Meg Bartos over the concerns I raised over wasting city tax dollars. I was not attacking her children as she alleges but was pointing out how city tax dollars were being spent on a whole family who don't even reside in the city, but live in Mount Carmel. Her failure on the police grant despite being paid several thousand dollars and the employment of what seems to be the entire family by the city raises concerns, not only by me, but by city residents as well. These officials will not come fully clean with the taxpayers of their city over these issues.

Finally, I have been disappointed by the failure of the media to pursue these wasteful spending practices. They should be raising the questions of why these part-time elected officials are receiving full benefits and how much it is costing. They should be asking the questions and investigating the true story of the failed grant. The taxpayers of any community in the county can rest assured that I will not fail to ask questions and investigate when it comes to government wasting tax dollars.

Vinny Clausi

Northumberland County commissioner