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February 3, 2010

 

Common Council creates Finance Advisory Committee

By HOLDEN B. SLATTERY
Staff Reporter
hslattery@cortlandstandard.net

The city Common Council voted 7-1 Tuesday night to approve a Finance Advisory Committee that will meet at least quarterly to review the city’s fiscal policies and make recommendations to the council.
Mayor Susan Feiszli proposed the idea to form the committee. A draft of the committee’s responsibilities includes suggestions made by members of the council.
The committee will have the authority to review all financial documents and review all fiscal policies and procedures, and provide recommendations to the mayor, Common Council and city finance director on changing policies or drafting new policies, Feiszli said.
“The object is to get things done that are recommended by the city comptroller and the auditor in the most efficient way,” Feiszli said.
The committee will consist of three aldermen chosen by the mayor, the city finance director and one citizen from each city board or commission that represents a department. The committee will have about eight members, Feiszli said.
Council members talked about including citizens on the committee, and the members of boards and commissions representing city departments will make up that component, Feiszli said.
Representatives from the fire department, police department, Youth Bureau and waste water treatment plant would serve on the committee, Feiszli said.
A representative from the Code Enforcement Office would also serve after the Code Enforcement Commission is activated. It has been inactive, but appointments for the commission will be made at the council’s next meeting, Feiszli said.
Feiszli said she will look for members of boards and commissions who have experience in finance to serve on the committee, and ask the aldermen if they want to serve on it.
Alderman Tom Michales (R-8th Ward) said the draft is based mainly on an outline that he created in January.
“I was pretty happy that these guidelines were pretty much adhered to,” Michales said.
Michales added that he thinks the committee draft should be tweaked before a final draft is completed, which he expects to happen in early March.
Michales suggested that “regular homeowners” serve on the committee. The current plan would only allow citizens to give input before meetings begin. Feiszli said that the draft was created to start the committee, but that the committee can fine tune the mission statement or add members after it begins meeting.
Alderman Dan Quail (R-5th Ward) cast the only vote against the committee’s formation. Quail said he thinks the mission statement, which says the committee will be responsible for the overall fiscal management of the city’s finances, does not reflect the city charter, which says the mayor, council and finance director have this responsibility.
Quail, who is a controller for Pall Trinity Micro Corp., said he thinks creating the committee is a reactive approach to problem-solving. Forming the committee is a tactic and the council needs to first develop strategies, he said.
“I think we need to focus on strategic initiatives so that we can define our priorities,” he said.
The Finance Advisory Committee will have the following responsibilities:
l Review and make recommendations to the Common Council on the mayor’s tentative budgets;
l review annual independent audits, review the city’s insurance plans annually, develop and maintain short- and long-term financial and capital improvement plans to be approved by the council; and
l review and make recommendations to the council on all capital projects and equipment purchases exceeding $20,000.

 

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