Joni MacFarlane’s editorial in this week’s Crowsnest Promoter (see below) raises some SERIOUS legitimate concerns with respect to the management of our municipal finances.
Last month provincial Tories told Albertans they’d missed the mark on energy prices and now faced a sizable deficit caused in part by their incorrect estimation.
Although critics charged Redford’s predictions left them exposed to a downturn they should have seen coming, there was a certain measure of tolerance for misjudging the market.
Not so in the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass.
Special meetings of council revealed a significant over-estimation of the drop in property assessments.
Ongoing budget deliberations failed to reveal that property assessments had decreased by 5.2 per cent instead of two per cent.
Unlike Redford’s lower than expected energy prices, residents are struggling to understand how this miscalculation was made.
Property assessments are compiled and sent to Edmonton by the end of February where they are verified that correct procedures were followed.
It’s hard to understand how the value of that assessment came as a surprise so late in the game.
If critical financial information is not shared within the walls of the municipality, it speaks to a problem far greater than being faced with a mill rate increase and budget cuts being made at the last minute.
We would encourage a thorough review of the process with transparent accountability of how and why this happened. Only in this way will taxpayers be assured their money is being managed by those fully able to do so.
For me, the last two paragraphs raises three concerns:
1. Mayor and council were apparently not provided with proper and critical information from the finance department, in a timely fashion.
2. Transparency and accountability seem to be completely lacking with respect to this matter i.e. no apparent reasons and/or repercussions.
3. Lack of professional qualifications and experience on the part of the CFO (and CAO) is of major concern to taxpayers, as millions of our dollars are involved here.
As Joni rightfully states, “taxpayers (must) be assured their money is being managed by those fully able to do so.”
This should be obvious, and the public has every right to demand that this is in fact the case. Otherwise, heads must roll and someone has to go. CFO or CAO, I don’t know? But word on the street for some time now has definitely been for the former.
Finance is the art of passing money from hand to hand until it finally disappears.