Crestwood needs audit, resident says

To the editor:

Is it time for a state audit?

In the March 2003 Crestwood Connections, Mayor Robertson wrote: “This ad-ministration is committed to sharing information with you. We work for you, we are accountable to you, and you have the right to know where we are and where we intend to go…”

In July the mayor wrote: “We cannot honestly tell you that our sales tax revenue will increase more than 1 percent per year.”

On Oct. 2 the SunCrest Call quoted City Administrator Greer: “It’s very important to me that this administration establishes credibility … I want a good audit.”

While I believe the administration is trying to get city finances under control, there have been too many surprises and unanswered questions since the 2004 fiscal year began July 1. Moreover, 2003 expenditures have not yet been disclosed, and July 7 changes to the 2004 budget have not yet been approved by the Board of Aldermen.

I obtained and reviewed a copy of Crestwood’s 2004 budget in August. On Sept. 8, I submitted a number of questions to the mayor and city administrator. These questions have not yet been answered. I am especially concerned about the following:

• Did 2003 expenditures come in at $9,590,000 as reported in the original budget of May 8 — which was approved by the Board of Aldermen June 24 — or at $8,987,000 per the July 7 budget changes? If the correct number is $8,987,000, what happened to expenditures of $602,000? If the correct number is $9,590,000, are we an additional $602,000 in the red?

• Is 2004 sales tax revenue going to in-crease 3.5 percent as budgeted or 1 percent as the mayor told us in the July CC? Sales tax revenue for 2003 is estimated at $3,997,000, a drop of 4 percent or $156,000 from 2002. Why do we now think sales tax revenue will increase by 3.5 percent or $140,000 in 2004?

• Whitecliff pool pass revenue is estimated at $108,000 for 2003. Why is it budgeted at only $27,000 in 2004?

• What is in “Other Misc.” revenue? In the past four years it has bounced between $117,000 and a negative $5,000. Negative revenue? For 2004 it is budgeted at $58,000.

I keep reading, most recently in the Oct. 16 SunCrest Call, that: “In preparing the city’s fiscal 2004 budget, Greer had reduced the city’s total expense position by roughly $660,000 compared to the previous year by consolidating operations and eliminating a dozen positions.” The original 2004 budget had estimated expenditures of $9,781,000; the revised budget of July 7 has the number $9,765,000. So where is the reduction? At best it’s a $175,000 increase; at worst a $777,000 increase.

Where is the expense reduction from eliminating a dozen positions?

On Oct. 2 the SunCrest Call ran the front-page headline: “Crestwood’s new auditing firm will restate ’01, ’02 statements.” The newspaper article begins with the statement: “A request for proposals for professional auditing services for fiscal 2003 issued by the City of Crestwood stipulates the new auditor will have to restate the financial statements for the fiscal years 2001 and 2002.”

I obtained a copy of the city’s RFP for professional audit services. The RFP was issued on Sept. 16 with proposals due in two weeks — Sept. 30. The fiscal year ended June 30.

• Why was this RFP not disclosed at the Board of Aldermen meetings Sept. 9 or Sept. 23?

• Why was the need to restate 2001 and 2002 not shared with the citizens of Crestwood before it was stated in the RFP of Sept. 16 and reported by the Call on Oct. 2?

• Is this in keeping with this administration’s commitment to share information? Why do the past two years need to be re-stated? Will other years need to be restated?

• Is there evidence of anything illegal?

• Why did we wait until now to seek an auditor? Shouldn’t the audit be complete by now?

• Why wasn’t the RFP issued months ago?

• Why didn’t an audit committee, not the city administrator, evaluate and recommend the auditor?

Other disturbing matters revealed by the SunCrest Call on Oct. 2:

• The former city administrator is still on the payroll at an annual salary of $91,056.

• The current city administrator is exchanging accrued vacation time for an automobile.

So to answer the initial question: Yes, it’s time for a state audit.

Jerry Miguel