Imagine your Council Member looking at the numbers presented to them. Do they accept the numbers because the City Manger and Finance Department signed off on them? Do they question them?
Now imagine just one council member asking Manson the question, "Where did you get this number from?" Manson should be able to explain it. Would Manson explain it if she were not asked? In a word, no.
In all actuality, Manson's job is to answer Council's questions and never to provide any additional details. As a City Manager, would you put additional information into the hands of a group of people who you are pretty certain don't know how to read the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR)? I'm pretty positive she thinks the six people sitting on council do not have any financial background and the seventh person who allegedly does, can't seem to hold down a job in that field for very long.
Consider the fact that we voted these people in office. Would you expect your City Council to be able to read a financial report and compare it to a preliminary budget and be able to ask the City Manager where she got her projections from? Would it stand to reason that if you held the job of City Manager for 13 years, you would have a wealth of experience and knowledge with which to make fairly accurate projections?
I am highly concerned that the theme presenting itself in this budget season and those in the past, is that a group of individuals who were voted in mistakenly hold the opinion that if we pay our City Manager well over $100K annually, that she must know what she is doing with the budget. Yet if we examine the past, when we consider the vote that took place when our City Council handed taxpayer funds taken out of this fictitious Contingency Fund (which does not exist on paper or in the CAFR) to WASA without viewing their financials or properly vetting them, we find that when the City Manager and Director of Finance were asked, how much money is in the Contingency Fund, the answer was, "I don't know." We got a story about a three legged stool or some such nonsense. Did any Councilmember tell her to find out? No.
I recently sent an email to all of our City Council asking them to address the questions I posed several blog posts ago. My main challenge to them wasn't all that difficult. I asked what steps they plan to take to find out how the City Manager arrived at her numbers and ultimately their answer would show whether they even understand what was presented to them on June 12th.
I received a verbal response from Councilwoman Diane Culver who is meeting with the City Manager and only Councilman Jones replied via email and said he planned to investigate it to the fullest because it is his job as a council member. Councilman David Goss responded that he needed another day or two to get me answers. Let me just point out here that it is a matter of public record that I made the request and a matter of public record that only three council members replied. Do you think it is perfectly acceptable for our Councilmembers and Mayor to ignore an emailed question from a citizen? This is highly unprofessional, especially from a peer we voted in to represent fiduciary responsibility on our behalf.
It would appear that we have some fuzzy figuring going on and only two people willing to educate themselves on the budget process and look into it. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the budget, it just takes a Councilmember that actually cares about their constituents and feels beholden to them.