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City audit plan draws opposition

December 19, 2012
By DAVE GOSSETT - Staff writer (dgossett@heraldstaronline.com.) , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - The chairman of the City Council finance committee said Tuesday night he is not in favor of a performance audit of city operations.

Sixth Ward Councilman David Lalich made his comments following a three-hour council meeting that included an hour-long presentation by Jim Pyers of the state auditor's office.

"As finance committee chairman I am not in favor of bringing outside concerns into the city to do work that we can do ourselves," Lalich said.

Article Photos

AUDITORS IN TOWN — Two representatives from the state auditor’s office met with Steubenville Council Tuesday night to discuss a possible performance audit of city operations. Jim Pyers, left, of the state auditor’s office chatted with City Manager Cathy Davison after the hour-long presentation. - Dave Gossett

"The auditors indicated tonight this performance audit could cost up to $80,000. We know what our financial issues are and we just have to make decisions ourselves instead of paying someone $80,000. Our City Manager Cathy Davison invited the auditors to come here tonight to make a presentation, but I am not in favor of the extra expense," stated Lalich.

The other two members of the finance committee also expressed some concerns about the price of the performance audit and how long it would take to complete.

Davison said Tuesday night she will continue working with council, department heads and the city unions, "to make additional personnel cuts."

"As of this point we anticipate a carryover of $400,000 into 2013. We have reached that level by working more efficiently and by clearing purchase orders from our books. But as of now we are projecting a $636,000 general fund deficit for 2013 that we need to eliminate. The performance audit would give us suggestions on how we can operate more efficiently moving forward. We will finish this year with a balanced budget, but we are facing a general fund deficit next year and need to plan for the future of our community" Davison said.

The presentation by Pyers included a slideshow detailing how his office "will drive the costs as low as we can get them. We drive down costs but we are also practical. We also do different types of performance assessments."

"We gather and review background data and we collect client and peer data. We then report on our findings and make recommendations. When we do a performance audit no one is surprised by the final report because we provide you with status reports," noted Pyers.

"When we do a performance audit we look at staffing by department and compensation as well as collective bargaining agreements in place. And we determine if you have policies in place to manage your government," Pyers added.

"We are here to help the citizens and make recommendations. It is then up o the city to carry out the recommendations or not carry them out. Ultimately it is the council's decision. We can make recommendations but we can't implement them. We don't guarantee savings but we usually see anywhere from a 4-1 to a 20-1 savings if our recommendations are implemented," Pyers said.

"Why should we pay $80,000 for the state auditor's office to help us. Isn't that your job? The funding for this study would come from the city while the governor has cut our local government funding. This council is getting punished on a daily basis for what is happening to our city. Maybe you should tell your boss to do a little to help us and not charge us," said 2nd Ward Councilman Rick Perkins.

Pyers said if the city agrees to a performance audit it wouldn't start for approximately five to six months and takes six to eight months to complete.

"So we would receive your recommendations at the end of 2013 or early 2014 and we are already looking at a projected general fund deficit in 2013," said 3rd Ward Councilman Greg Metcalf.

Pyers said the city could be billed monthly for the performance audit or participate in a program that delays the billing until savings are realized from the study.

 
 

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