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Letter: City Needs To Explain Budget

To the Editor:

Although City Council reportedly instructed the city manager to submit a budget that does not raise taxes (it is an election year), he submitted a budget that does take more money from us.

Sadly, recent news reports have revealed that city and school employees have abused their authority regarding our money. I doubt that the city manager’s proposed remedy of spending $25,000 on an ethics course will be effective in stopping such employees from stealing/misallocating money. Such misdeeds result from a problem of character, not a lack of knowledge of the difference between right and an obvious wrong. Also, that sum seems high for such a basic course. (I speak as a human resources consultant.)

In every organization I know, it is the supervisor’s responsibility to sign off on hours worked/ materials and supplies purchased/ monies paid to ensure an honest accounting. Have the supervisors of those city employees have been penalized for failing to exercise the necessary oversight? What has the city’s director of human resources done during this mess? Someone exercised judgment in hiring that consulting company which supposedly vetted the city’s new hires; that person must assume at least some of the blame — and appropriate penalty — for the unfortunate results, but I haven’t heard of anyone doing so. Has the consulting company been asked to make restitution (at least to return its fee)?

It was reported that the city budget had a surplus last year which the city manager has recommended spending rather than putting it into a rainy day fund. I think we should build a financial cushion for an expected slowing of economic activity in our region if the federal government reduces its expenditures and our revenues fall as a result. Alternatively, return it to us taxpayers.

I was surprised that Mr. Young’s proposed budget provides the School Board with even more money than it requested; I hope he will explain his reasons for that decision which also increases our taxes.

Since other taxpayers must have the same concerns, I hope Mr. Young will address them in your columns as well as on the city website. If the acting city manager has already addressed the personnel and related problems, I hope Mr. Young’s response will include what he did. I’d also like to know what measures have been implemented to avoid similar problems in the future.

Ellen Latane Tabb

Alexandria