Council Watch, 6/9/08

A last-minute change to the regular City Council Meeting agenda, prompted by the city manager, put the waste-collection fee ordinance ahead of considerations for utility tax, rate and fee hikes. At that point, Public Works Director Rick Monas pulled a rabbit out of his hat. Turns out the Refuse Fund has about $485,000 that they’ve been saving up for a couple pieces of equipment but don’t need them after all, so City Council could decide to put the windfall where needed elsewhere.

I found the Refuse Fund in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFRs, pronounced Kay-fers). In the CAFR for end of FY 2007 (June 30), the “rabbit” was $373,083. That would have been nice to know 6 months ago, when it was probably about $400,000, instead of their yelling “Budget Crisis–layoffs–layoffs–layoffs!” I mean, doesn’t it make you wonder how many more “rabbits” are in there?

Here’s how I read the situation. This is pure speculation based on observation of the proceedings. Staff got wind that there were not enough votes for all the tax hikes–which indeed did play out that way–and are trying to save their budget proposal as is, with no cuts. They pulled out this rabbit to dangle in front of Council, hoping that Council will rather not tangle over the cuts themselves and will throw the rabbit in the General Fund to avoid them.

Don’t do it, Council! Put that money in the Reserve or Capital Fund and snip, snip, snip that budget. It’s good surgery that will lead to healing. The Financial Advisory Committee’s recommendations are solid. Use them.

25 thoughts on “Council Watch, 6/9/08”

  1. I was pleased as all get out that Mr. Greenlee spoke last night to budget issues and that I got to meet him.

    Welcome to the Citywatchers Club, Mr. Greenlee!

  2. Good find Yinn. CAFR is less fun to read than the directions that come with imported high tech products.

    Seems that the refuse is the only very large balance in the small non GF enterprise funds.

    The money does pose questions (and I mean questions I haven’t worked out my own answers yet)

    First, if the equipment hadn’t been neede why was it saved for for so long?

    But, from our perspective do we really want enterprise funds balances transferred to GF? Doing so is a smart short term move from a cash flow perspective but of course can’t be repeated as once the money is gone its gone. We did complain about the public legerdermain with the personnel transfer into the water fund. So is it better to use one time money now or to use it for capital repair?

    Thinking out loud: if council and financial advisory board really do move toward handling the structural imbalance then using the 400k money for one time cash flow replacement makes sense as it helps with my goal of ‘stalling’. But if the major problems are not being addressed I’d be nervous using the funds now. Maybe mac can raise these questions tonight. Funds are meant to well segregate funds.

    Yinn an interesting speculation on the ‘why’ of the discovery. I don’t have the foggiest knowledge myself. But when the council was deciding not even to receive and file the two taxes, I looked at the faces of several of the department heads and they truly looked surprised (assuming I read them correctly). I physically couldn’t see Mark’s face.

    Frankly i was disappointed at the negative votes. Not that I want the tax but i do feel Fin. Adv. board should have everything on the table so that swaps can be made. Making up numbers now: i could see a scenario in which everyone decided to reduce tax income by 750k, but doing so by reducing sales tax income by a million and increasing utility tax by a 250k.
    that flexibility is now gone.

    I think what is bothering me is the decision making at the vote time model. The council shouldn’t be making such decisions without having some longer discussion at a workshop or perhaps previous meeting. I think that makes for bad governance and it appeared that at least on the second vote several council members vacillated.

    Anyway, last night I was surprised more often than at any other council meeting I’ve ever attended.

    And, again thanks Yinn for staying awake long enough to find the lines in CAFR

    herb

  3. Thank you for the kind words. Such direct participation will not be frequent, but I have friends, as do all of you, with email addresses and we should pass on what we learn in these discussions and meetings.

    Having said that, I am anxiously awaiting tonight’s Financial Advisory Committee meeting. The story last night wasn’t the defeat of the utility taxes (and the adjoined posturing by a couple of aldermen who have ambitions). It was that in this time of financial crisis, a half million dollars suddenly appeared. As yinn points out, how many other funds like this are there and how many unnecessary fees are we paying?

    Even more importantly than that, why was this information not provided to members of the Financial Advisory Committee in their review and discussions? I hope somebody asks that tonight, along with the corollary question of how many other funds like this and fees are there?

    Either members of the city staff forgot about these funds or they purposely hid them from view. In my mind, that is an offense worthy of termination and nothing short of that. I know that good Dr. Rubin said in his remarks last night that one of the challenges in this process and correcting past bad habits is avoiding playing a game of “Gotcha”. However, hiding $500,000 and then magnanimously coming forth with it to save the day and advocate additional taxes? This is not gotcha, this is malfeasance. You could make the case that the fiduciary responsibility of the city manager and his assistant was grossly violated in this matter.

    I feel snookered and every taxpayer and resident of the City of DeKalb should feel hoodwinked. The cuts proposed should be implemented, every man jack one of them. I would suspect that work would still get done as some dollars were then pulled out of these accounting shoe boxes so that goals could be met.

    This was a slap in the face of any effort at opening the budget process to scrutiny. Transparent government? Indeed.

    And even more shameful were the looks of befuddlement and shock on the faces of our elected officials. None of them, not a one, was aware this money was out there. I’m still don’t think I support the repeal of Home Rule but if we had an appropriate recall process, I’d be knocking on doors with petitions right now.

    Or maybe I just didn’t get a good night’s sleep last night.

  4. Paul (also glad to see you f 2 f though we’ve already met on the phone)

    Commenting on 500,000 is not a gotcha. I too was shocked but suspect that some internal administrative politics took place to ‘persuade’ public works to release the funds.

    One of the historic problems in DeKalb administration (or strengths depending on your beliefs) is that the departments are very strong independent entities that while legally under the control of the manager have a lot of autonomy on their own. This situation has persisted over multiple mayors and multiple managers. I don’t understand the whys and wherefors of this.

    My gotcha comment was referring to the sniping that goes on that can distract from the main question. Half a million bucks is not sniping I mean think of how many beers that could buy for Ed P in Cinn.

    Actually it was an good lesson for us as we learn how to examine budgets. The money was quite visible in the CAFR and none of us (me included) even saw it or thought to ask about it. Staff should have talked more about non GF funds and how they could link to GF, but we also learned a lesson on where to look. Maybe we should persuade irene to go back to teaching; this is the stuff she used to teach in her course. Maybe I should have taken her course (Irene grading Herb??? now that could lead to front page stories)

    On the officials: problem is we had a lot of turn over last election and learning time is long. Simpson, Keller, Wogen are new. They replaced Barr, Conboy and Kapitan all detail people with experience. Baker constantly is admittedly he doesn’t know things, a real shame for a long term alderperson. Gorski’s strength is not in numbers. I’m troubled by Kris who usually is more on top of matters.

    Paul, be cheerful. I am a very long term observer. things are far from perfect but the procedure, openness and access, just the very length of the discussion is like day and night in comparison to the past.

    the money issues are a tough nut to crack, but the we have cracked the procedural issues.

    Current procedures (combined with the Lynn-Herb pressures for far more use of the web by the city) make it way easier for citizens to carefully follow and participate in city budget matters. I’m very optimistic on the dramatic increase in openness. It might take us a season or two to learn but its now all hanging out there. We had concentrated on the budget and the GF. We’ve learned now to also examine enterprise funds and the CAFR; that stuff is out there and once we start to do so staff will assume that material is also out there for all. Documents are now easily accessible, we have a spotlight now we just have to better learn how to point it.

    Personal matter: I do take responsibilities seriously and had actually had taught stuff germane to planning. But I wasn’t really confident of my background knowledge into almost my third year on the plan commission. Especially in volunteer government, balance is needed so that people have enough time to learn, but yet are not in office so long that they become part of the establishment.

    I no longer remember the topic, but to grasp one area that the PC faced I spent two days at a conference. Lawyer spent about two hours with PC to get us up to speed on laws regarding public hearings. Irene taught several university courses on how to understand public budgeting that she felt just scratched the surface.

    Herb

  5. I’m sorry, but if the Council and its mayor, appeared to not know that this money existed, then there are only two reasons for it..

    1. The treasurer, or accountant is NOT doing their job
    2. Someone was caught embezzeling the money.

    I truly hope someone’s head rolls for this one, and that its investigated to its fullest…I believe we were pushed into various fee’s and taxes to stop budget crisis layoff’s and now this?

    Come on, transparency in government is key…and I am sorry this was in fact hidden from all of us…we must push this to the top of the chronicle agenda’s and make sure everyone in DeKalb, knows about this.

    I for one am shall I say a bit ticked off about this to say the least.

  6. Certainly closer monitoring is needed. But before one makes serious allocations about legal matters, let’s pause.

    The money was right there in the CAFR, council members (and the rest of us) should have looked, maybe staff should have shouted out that it was there, but remember it is part of an enterprise fund, not general revenue.

    For example, the water fund accumulates or ought to accumulate money for new or repaired towers. If that money were to be moved to the GF that would mean the towers would get repaired and eventually would leak or something.

    In theory (though not always in practice) enterprise funds are meant to ‘hide’ funds from the general fund.

    Sort of like in personal savings. If you are provident and have the income, you put money into retired savings accounts (that are tax sheltered) and saved for a special enterprise (in this case retirement). Only when desperate do you touch this money as it is hard to replenish.

    Again, council should be more on top of the issue, no disagreement here.
    And, once staff had determined that the money was not needed for the special enterprise project it should have been immediately released. But so long as the money was earmarked for the special enterprise project, good budgeting says it should be carefully segregated from the general fund.

    When I buy a car I look in my savings account, CDs etc. (plus I save in advance so I don’t have to borrow.) I do NOT count as my savings that I can spend on ordinary stuff, like a car, the money hidden from myself in my retirement savings.

    Don’t yell. I’m upset at council’s ignorance. Just trying to contrast Enterprise funds from general revenue.

    Another example: in many cities, though not dekalb, sanitary districts are enterprise funds not districts. The sanitary district saves huge amounts of money in anticipation of the major thingies they have to build to process waste. This money must be separated from the general fund or if not the city would not be able to keep up with its waste removal.

    Council should have been looking, but so should the rest of us as the sum was right there in the CAFR.

    Rather than accuse staff of malfeasance, to me the solution, is for council to simply order that fund totals in enterprise funds be part of a regular report, not simply part of an annual report.

    Herb

  7. First, public works has several vehicles that they could actually get rid of. I guy like me would call “toys of luxury”. I’m sure that the $485,000.00 was intended for some more “toys”. Could be considered a slush fund maybe, I don’t know.

    One thing that I do know is that if I was part of the city council or even the mayor and I’ve been part of a process of trying to figure out how to get out of a huge deficit, a deficit that keeps growing everytime it is looked at, I would have been raging mad at the fact that all of a sudden this money pops up. A MIRACLE you say, no, this is actually borderline criminal.

    Where is the transparency of this budget? How many more caches of money is laying around for a wish list? I would absolutely have a difficult time now trusting staff with anything they say. How can they be trusted any longer? They cannot and should not.

    I am really surprised that not a single alderman made the first motion to fire someone last night. What an embarassment to not know what is going on but to actually be voting yes more tax increases and contracts based on staffs recommendations.

    If one of my employees made me look confused like that in front of one of my customers, heads would be rolling.

    IT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE and I for one demand that this be corrected and acted upon immediately! The mayor and the council have a sworn duty to uphold. I agree with Paul about the recall but unfortunately our only weapon right now if the council does not act appropiately is to revoke Home Rule.

    I’m so upset right now about the deceit, I truly cannot right my true feelings and more should be also.

  8. I’m sorry I am more of a pessimist, and I find it quite funny the amount in the “refuse Fund” was just about what the city claims its in the red by…

    sorry I find that too much a coincidence..and this needs to be investigated…and I mean fully, and not just pushed to the side like the money is there now, so why worry about it now…

  9. Also, at my company, we operate under a general fund, each dept is given a budget, they follow that budget for the year, if you go outside that budget, then you have no more money to spend, and have to wait until the new fiscal year..

    Its seems to me that too many earmarks are given out… and those earmarks are not followed, to see that the money earmarked for those items is used or not used, if its not used by X amount of time, the money is then forfietted and returned to the general fund.

    Obviously in this case no one followed the earmark…or else we would not be screaming we are in debt 500K, when 500K happens to be sitting out in limbo.

    The city needs to be auditted, and money needs to be found that is in fact sitting out in limbo…if its not being used, and used by X day, then it needs to be returned.

    this ticks me off, as they used a deficit to make us believe we needed to add fee’s and taxes, etc…

    when in reality they can’t do simple things like balance the books…if they had they would have realized this money was there, and that the money was not being used for its intended purpose..

    if they had done this, the books would be more balanced, and we would not be scrambling to find a solution to a problem that seemed dire.

    I still recommend whomever “lost” this money or did not track it properly needs to be canned.

    and I still think this is too much of a coincidence.

  10. I agree Mark, coincidences are many within this budget fiasco. I’m not comfortable at all with the current staff. Where else is there money sitting for equipment that wasn’t purchased. How about out at the airport?

    An internal audit, department by department, needs to be performed. How do we know that moneys haven’t been embazzled somehow? We don’t and the council cannot say either. The council has been made to look very bad here. Voting for tax raises, water increases, signing off on new contracts, buing properties around town and all based off of staffs recommendations.

    Isn’t it staff that is recommending the FY’09 Budget for the council to pass.

    This budget holds no water until another full blown audit is performed and no votes should be made until that happens.

  11. Herb you don’t blame staff for having the money stashed in a CAFR but if staff says no money to replenish the reserve fund, water fees need hiking, we have to fire employee’s due to shortfall of money, tax this, tax that, and let’s make up a new tax for this just to cover the shortfalls, does this mean we have a tax and spend staff or a tax and spend council because they just listen to staff and not bother to research the thousands of pages that are put in front of these councilmen who do this government stuff part time and rely on staff to be open?

    There have been many people picking at this budget and no one, and I mean none of us caught this. Why did staff all of a sudden decide to bring it out of the closet?

    Herb, you keep saying you are upset with the many different turns that this budget and deficit seem to be taking but yet you defend the ones that should be doing a better job explaining what the city owns, owes, and needs. An audit must be done just to bring a sense of integrity back to this whole process.

  12. I have a a few points to watch following the FAC meeting Tuesday night. It may reveal how the Council plans to proceed.

    My first point is that we not get to tied up on what has happened and concentrate on what will happen. It is time we hold the Mayor and Council accountable for every action they take from this point forward and not dwell on the past..

    The first area to watch is the compensation package for Wards 2-4-6 and the mayor for the years following the next city election. It is my understanding that that compensation package needs to be in place at least 180 days prior to the election. With the next city elections set in April 2009 that 180 deadline is fast approaching..

    Concerning this issue what will the council decide:
    Freeze wages for the Council and Mayor?
    Cut or increas the wages?
    Eliminate Health coverage for their part time postions?
    If not eliminate make each member of the council pay 25% percent ( or some percentage) of the premium?
    What they do to themselves may very welll indicate how they will tackle the rest of the personnel issues facing the city.

    The second and most troubling term I heard last night was something like “other post retirement benefits”. I would like more detail on what other post retirment benefits the city offers. Anybody have any ideas??

    Ed Pevonka

  13. P.S. We need to force the Council to bring this to head of the table. By doing nothing it will keep the wages and insurance as is. We must let them know this is unacceptable and they need to act now on their own health insurance contributions. Don’t let them put this off. Let them lead be example.

    Ed Pevonka

  14. Ed is on target. “Post-retirement benefits.” Now that is an oxymoron. Is that where the taxpayers pay for their funerals, too?

    (Meant to be humorous)

  15. Ivan,

    A personal reminder. I did and have repeatedly testified in public not just on this blog for cuts in the budget and for careful examination of the 800 lb labor gorilla and its overhead. I am a defender of public services yet I was pushing for reason in the process while calling for cutbacks, agreeing with Mac on most of his cutbacks, and also testifying in favor of an earlier cessation of a reasaonable portion of the tax increase. The very ability of us to track down the CAFR etc on line came from testimonies that several of us gave that persuaded staff and council to assure public access to records.

    At the same time. I am congenitally an optimist and believe the best in people. So for example, I’ve avoided making the structural analysis showing how residential growth along with too high labor payments has enabled the budget deficit to come into being. The growth is already here so why harp on it. Demands for city services increased to satisfy the new residents that occupied the new homes and then the city staff went over board in wages for people to provide these services. The operating costs of the north side fire station, its capital cost, the expansion of the police are all in part uncompensated development costs.

    But I also get angry when people without a basis accuse others of illegal actions (and that was what I was responding to. in posts prior to yours) Illegalities do happen and should not be tolerated. In observing the city over decades, I have never caught a financial irregularity but on several occasions in past decades i (thought) I had caught serious procedural irrregularities. On both occasions, I didn’t blog. I took action. I contacted proper authorities once the d.a. and once the states attorney. I was toold I was wrong on one concern so nothing happened. I was more or less right on the other problem and the SA encouraged the city to change certain procedures and they were changed.

    My bottom line: I too was upset by the appearance of the money in an enterprise fund, but my first thought was it came about from (a) budget games or (b) the power of a department to shield its capital fund not because of some hidden crime. The money was clear as could be in the CAFR (with the problem that no one pointed out that part of the CAFR to council and council didn’t bother reading the document with sufficient catre). My first reaction was not to accuse someone of what might be a serious crime. That was what I was reacting to, not defending the lack of presentation of the funds.

    (I also was trying to make clear the more technical point that generally enterprise funds ought to be carefully segregated from the general fund. Sometimes, though not in this particular case, enterprise funds enter into bonding and contractual relations and any switching between funds can lead to suit by those who hold the bonds. So in cities with sanitary funds (not dekalb) huge bonds are floated and if any money from the sanitary enterprise fund is used outside of the enterprise fund, bond holders freak.)

    I did criticize strongly the council for not having in place a better way of monitoring enterprise funds. But remember Baker for example is constantly saying he didn’t know this or know that. To me that is really problematic, not of the form of government but of the people who are elected to office. Instability in government through turn over and then electing people who are not willing to do the detail work is harmful.

    But all the end of home rule would accomplish is to make it less possible to provide needed services and easier if development projects are approved for the development community to be unchecked by the rest of the community

    Many of these posts make me feel guilty. I’m not sure if I could win a public office, but those who know me do know I do my homework and in office do read all backup. But why would I want a public office only to become a target of the blog world, not simply on issues (I never mind when people disagree with me on issues, i love the debate) but on more personal matters.

    Herb.

  16. Ed
    I think Yinn or the city have the contracts on line someplace to look up the other post retirement benefits.

    I need to lighten up a bit. I too was told about ‘other post retirement benefits’ for NIU people (beyond the obvious.) I knew of one: access to e-mail (of course we still have to pay for our own ISP); I knew of that one because 15 years ago I suggested it.l

    But we have one incredible post retirement benefit: we get a white parking permit that allow parking any place on the main campus except in an expensive reserve spot or one reserved for those with special needs. Now after decades of hunting for a parking space (or in my case getting to campus really early) I can find one almost immediately. Of course, I use the white permit probably twice a month, but still the thrill remains. A parking space on campus without a hastle. Now that’s a perk even if seldom used. (Of course it gets retirees to campus where many do for free what they used to get paid for).

    Herb

  17. Herb

    This is the City of DeKalb where everyone has free parking. Check out page 49 of the Firefighters contract.

    >>>when a retired employee reaches the age of 60 the City will pay the premium of that employees health and medical insurance…..

    Only in government would retirees get free healthcare after retirement without contributing anything.

    Guess I found one ” post retirement benefit” wonder how many others are out there?

    Ed Pevonka

  18. Dr. Rubin:

    OK, I’ll bite, since I am one of the ones who threw out the word malfeasance, so feel free to train your guns on me and fire. I don’t think malfeasance is too strong of a word. Playing political games and accounting games and so forth without being up front about what is in the funds in a time of economic duress is responsible. It is intentionally irresponsible. It shows that not all of the lines of the budget and all of the departments were not appropriately vetted for need. That means the budget as submitted and reviewed was not postured to meet the financial constraints we are facing in a responsible way. So it was malfeasance because I believe it was intentional. If it was unintentional, there is another word: incompetent. Either is a basis for termination of the responsible parties. I would be having a closed session of the Council re: Biernacki and Espiritu post haste if I were king.

    I don’t believe there is embezzlement or anything criminal in nature going on, I will part ways with some on that issue. Failure of city management and department heads to handle adequately and appropriately their fiduciary responsibility? Yes. Felonious behavior? No.

    I am going to say a couple of things now I never thought I would: I have developed a healthy respect for Mr. Kapitan, who is generous after these meetings with his time. I actually miss him on the Council. Thing number two: I compliment the Mayor. I agree with yinn’s past comments (and yours) that he has made the budget process more transparent. Perfect? No. Improved? Most certainly; the FAC is evidence of that.

    He also did something else yesterday for which I commend him: he started talking about cuts in service. I don’t necessarily advocate those cuts, but he started mentioning a couple: clean streets via plowing, leaf pick up. It would be nice to identify 8-10 services and put a price tag on them, then make a decision. Thank you, Mayor. I consider your comments leadership.

    That frustrates me all the more about my alderman. His comments during and after the meeting were that the citizens of this community want service, but they don’t want to pay for it. I shared with him my thoughts of what Mayor said and suggested that a list of services with corresponding costs be made. I asked him for suggestions on what services he thought could/should be considered. He refused and simply pointed at Chief Feithen and told me I should ask him which programs he wants to keep. He and I had a conversation about two months ago in Lowe’s and we discussed the budget. He blamed the inability to make cuts on Police and Fire always getting what they wanted and that citizens did not scrutinize them.

    I concur with you that finding this half million should not be counted as regular income; that is obvious and the money should go into a reserve or be used in some way that is not easily accessed and spent. I disagree with Biernacki; this is a windfall, albeit city staff being shamed into providing it. I would love to know how many trommels could have been purcahsed with that amount, thus showing we are overtaxed. Let’s make this money count.

    I am amazed they want to go forward with the skating rink. TIF money be hanged; if you think sidewalks need repair because they create a liability for the city, you will get no exemption from liability because money funding a skating rink came from a TIF. Let’s see, ice, skate blades, administration, supervision; I work in insurance claims, there are plenty of sharp folks out there who are willing to turn an accident into a financial liability. ReNew wants it? Let ReNew pay for it.

    I will share some additional thoughts later. Kay, where is the voice of reason in this? Yinn, you’re great, thanks for your hard work.

  19. Malfeasance means misconduct or wrongdoing by a public official, especially as regards violation of public trust. It is very clear here at CityBarbs that this has occurred (violation of public trust, I mean. Yes, I just edited myself).

    “Illegal activities” or “criminal wrongdoing” would of course come under the heading of malfeasance but are not terms interchangeable with it.

    Paul’s use of “malfeasance” was perfectly correct.

  20. I’ve said it before and I will say it again. My priorities are:

    Fire / Ambulance
    Police
    Snow Removal
    Street Repair
    Sidewalk Repair
    Streetlights

    I believe the Police Department will cut the D.A.R.E. program. They will pull one officer off NCDTF and one officer off DEA and re-assign them to DeKalb. That is like cutting two officers. They will rotate cars out more slowly. I am almost out of lunch time so I will skip what Fire is doing for their share.

    Police and Fire/Ambulance are the last places there should be any cuts, and there are cuts. Finger pointing to other departments is counter-productive and shows there is a leadership issue of some sort at the top.

    The City should not even be involved with a skating rink. If they really want that thing, fine, charge money for it, make it pay for itself, and come out ahead to get money put somewhere else.

  21. Skating Rink:

    I crunched some numbers on charging admission and paying someone to be at a skating rink during operational hours with some overhead to keep a person comfortable enough outdoors. There was not much of a profit margin at all. If the walls could be used for advertising, though, that might work.

    For out-of-the-box thinking, cross the Elburn Metra station parking lot ‘honor system’ fee with a small vending machine kiosk that could print a date stamped receipt ticket with the bus inspector system in St. Petersburg, Russia. Do not pay someone to babysit a cash drawer all day long but have a kiosk and skaters can get a receipt showing they paid. Once in a while, have someone stop by to check to make sure skaters paid that day. Every time I go to the Elburn Metra station, I see everybody paying the parking fee because they never know if they will get caught not paying. Most everyone on the bus in Russia paid because they never knew when someone was going to check their tickets.

    That could be done with $100 in overhead each week, with $2000 tacked on for the kiosk. Assuming there would be an average of 20 skaters a day paying $2 and overhead to pay for money collection and upkeep, it could pay for itself in just over four years. If it is popular, in just over one year.

  22. Herb, the city council are not professional politicians. They are normal citizens as you and I. Using the the word normal figuratively for you and I. With the city manager form of government here in DeKalb, my understanding is that the city manager and his staff are there for the purpose of advising the council on actions to take for the city. If the council cannot trust that manager and staff to be forthright with everything within the city, the council cannot do their jobs properly.

    For staff or an accounting firm hired by the city to tell the council that everything is right in front of them is just plain ridiculous. You know how many people were looking that budget recommendation over and at the last moment staff decides to expose the $485,000.00. I understand that staff has to manage monies like magicians most of the time but this is a magic act that needs to stop and be exposed in time of crisis.

    When we are asking for staff layoffs, department cuts, reducing of hours and bans on purchases all should be upfront to where there is access funds sitting in previous budgets that were not used. I would think that there are many city employees that are wondering why did they go through the layoff period, not knowing who would be cut, when funds like this exist not used.

    To me Herb, it is about honesty. Integrity to be up front because once someone loses trust in you, it is a very difficult road to regain that trust if it is even possible to do so. Personally, I don’t feel you can ever get that trust back. There is still house cleaning to be done and cuts to be made. The city council thinks problems are solved but I’m afraid all of this will return for FY10 then what.

    I’m not accusing anyone of embazzling as much as I’m demanding that employees be accountable to their employers and explain the “magic” used to come up with this budget. I am calling for a complete audit of every line item within this budget by an outside and independent firm, a second opinion if you wish. I would like to start the process of regaining some trust in staff by looking and finding all of the numbers.

    If the council is responsible for finding the numbers, then they should. The council should not vote for any measure until they know for sure what they are voting on and for, this budget is surely one of those times.

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