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The seven dead-on repairs for the city’s deadly fiscal sins

There’s two major differences between the seven point finance plan presented in this column and the finance plan recently offered by the council’s Financial Advisory Panel: The Reporter’s plan is both easily understood and easily implemented. No buzzwords. No double talk. Just straight forward remedies for the city’s sick fiscal picture.

Complete financial transparency:
Nothing less will do. Immediately post the entire city budget on line in real time. Other governments do this and it’s time for the city to end the secrecy with taxpayer money. A live budget allows every resident with access to a computer to monitor their tax dollars in real time as it moves. And this also goes for the expenditure of the interest earned through the casino revenue account.

Casino revenue spending policy and spending plan:
That neither document has been produced by the Dyster administration tells you everything you need to know about the how and why the administration has mismanaged close to $100 million in casino revenue. Until there’s a policy and plan the hide and seek peek a boo games with the taxpayer casino cash will continue. Neither mayor or council want to see these documents created because they’ll finally be required to follow a public policy on casino cash spending.

Total review of the $100 million in casino cash expenditures:
You can’t know where you went wrong until you know where you went in the first place. This newspaper has reported at length as to casino cash going to penguins, parking lots, overtime, salaries, tree stumps, train station, trash totes, business loans, condemned fire halls, not for profit agencies, consultants, legal fees etc. The list is as long as it is ugly and must be reviewed once and for all so the missteps can be highlighted and avoided in the future.

Full accounting of city debt and debt structure:
The debt is believed to be $63 million and growing. With a current budget deficit of perhaps $7.8 million (the real number is a city hall mystery) and the casino revenue currently spent and falling for the future, the city debt must be precisely studied with a look back of at least 12 years.  A non partisan citizen group with proven individual financial acumen should review the debt annually and make all recommendations as to its structuring.

Expansion of Financial Advisory Panel powers:
The panel has had the door to the meaningful city hall financial records slammed in its face. It’s ridiculous that an appointed group of volunteers can be asked to serve the city and then be told they can’t have access to the heart of city hall’s finance records. What’s that all about? It’s time to open the door to all financial records so the Financial Advisory Panel can do the job they were asked to do. If this can’t be done then admit it was all a puppet show from the start and disband the panel.

Elected Controller:
The Reporter has been recommending this for three years. The need for an elected chief fiscal officer is no longer beyond questioning. If the mayor and council are seen as two legs of the stool then what’s missing is the third leg…an elected controller. As we’ve written so many times before it eliminates the political games and behind closed doors deals as to budget prep and spending. If the ridiculous and irresponsible fiscal drama of the last eight years proves one thing, it proves that the city desperately needs to have an elected city controller.

NYS Comptroller’s 2012 city audit:
Read it, study it, adopt its recommendations. The audit, released in May 2013 is both the most revealing document and most ignored document in the history of the city. While mayor and council and finance panel wring their hands and assume varying credible levels of astonishment as to the condition of city finances, the answers to the problems are in that Comptroller’s report. Money management, mismanagement and casino revenue abuse are all explained within. Don’t just read the audit itself. Be sure to read the Mayor’s written response to the Comptroller’s findings and the Comptroller’s pointed response back to the mayor.

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