Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ensuring fiscal transparency of YOUR tax dollars

Yesterday I took steps to ensure the transparency and safety of how YOUR tax dollars are spent.

In June of this year, while reviewing the City Budget for fiscal year 2011-2012, I noticed an account in the City general fund for half a million dollars for "General Contingency Reserves".

The purpose of the account, in existence since 1992, is to fill short-falls in department budgets which occur naturally over the course of the year.   For example, say the public works department has to spend extra money due to winter storm that causes flooding in our streets, the $500,000 contingency reserve account could be used to fund the efforts to clean up our streets and protect our homes.

The general contingency reserve is an important account to have.  However, I noticed one problem.  The account could be spent by the City Manger with no oversight from either the City Council or taxpayers.  In other words, there was no one to oversee how the money was being spent.

In my opinion, this created a lack of fiscal transparency in how the City spends your hard-earned tax dollars.  In June I raised this issue with City Staff, and urged them to close this loophole.

I am pleased to report that last night along with my fellow Councilmembers, we closed the loophole to the half a million dollar account.

The City Manager will still have the authority to use the contingency reserve fund to close short-falls in department budgets.  Now, however, the City Manager will be required to report those expenditures to the City Council and the public in the form of a quarterly balance statement.

This statement will be required to be on the agenda of a public City Council meeting, so that both the Council and the public will be able to account for every dollar spent in the contingency reserve fund. 

I believe this action creates a more transparent, open process to how the City spends your tax dollars.  In these tough economic times, every penny counts! 

As we head into the next fiscal year, I will continue to monitor our finances and find more ways to increase efficiency and transparency in our City finances. 

To view last night's report on this item, click here

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