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DeKalb city manager wants outside review of financial and purchasing policies

Published: Thursday, March 6, 2014 11:38 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, March 7, 2014 12:26 a.m. CDT

DeKALB – New DeKalb City Manager Anne Marie Gaura wants the city to hire an outside financial expert after staff recently broke rules for making purchases in excess of $20,000.

Gaura called for an outside expert to review the city’s financial and purchasing procedures and budget process; the expert will then make recommendations on their findings. Gaura plans to present City Council members with an expert to hire next month.

“We need to have formalized polices and procedures here,” Gaura said. “The city has had certain policies in place that need revising, and there are some that need implementing. I also see potential for changes in the budget.”

Gaura would not say what financial firm she is pursuing and did not know how much their services might cost, but she said the money would come from funds that have already been budgeted for consulting.

The outside review will target purchases, making sure they are within the amounts budgeted by the City Council and making sure they are within staff spending authority or approved by the council.

Gaura announced the initiative this week, after two instances in which City Council members approved purchases that exceeded the city manager’s purchasing power of $20,000 – after the purchases had been made or started.

First, the council approved the changes to city hall that included moving the finance office to the first floor and upgrading security. When city staff sought council approval, $14,000 in work had been completed, but the project was slated to cost $36,000. During their last meeting, aldermen approved a $22,864 expenditure for fitness equipment at the police station that had already been purchased using administrative tow funds.

“This just goes to the long history of the organization,” Gaura said. “It wasn’t anything intentional, but it indicated to me we need to improve our purchasing policies.”

She speculated the outside review and recommendations could result in a purchasing policy manual and consolidation of some budget funds.

Further, the city will tighten how revenues and expenditures are tracked. This includes providing more ongoing detail to the City Council about accuracy or changes to revenue and expenditure projections.

DeKalb Mayor John Rey said the changes will establish the city’s financial practices are sustainable, adding he did not have concerns about the city’s past practices.

“I think this will move us in a positive direction towards fiscal responsibility, to live within our revenues and to do what we need to do to have comprehensive financial reporting,” Rey said.

This will not be the first time an outside expert has taken a closer look at the city’s books. The city has already commissioned two reports from financial consulting firm Executive Partners Inc. that stressed the need for new purchasing policies. The city has acted on some of the suggestions the firm made, such as hiring a finance director and cutting back on spending.

Part of Gaura’s initiative is to assure recommendations from financial consultants are fully disclosed to the City Council, evaluated and considered for implementation.

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