Thursday, December 14, 2006

Snow Removal

This week's Pitch contains an excellent article by David Martin about the city's negotiations with J.E. Dunn to anchor a development project on the east side of Downtown. One of the most interesting details in the article was offered almost as an aside:
You might think that the city would pay for the [snowstorm] cleanup from an account marked "snow removal." But there is no such account. Not this year, anyway. The money will come instead from the city's contingency fund, which it uses to settle lawsuits and pay for other unexpected expenses.

That's how the city conducted business when I began serving as auditor almost 20 years ago. We treated snowstorms as unexpected emergencies rather than the annual occurrences that they are.

In 1994, my office conducted an audit which pointed out that this is not a good idea. City Council members such as Ron Finley and George Blackwood agreed, and they led the charge to follow the audit's recommendation for the creation of a budget for snow removal in a city where it snows every year.

In 1999, we produced a follow-up audit (PDF file) that offered good news:
Between fiscal years 1995 and 1999, $5.4 million was budgeted for snow removal activities while actual expenditures totaled $9.9 million.

In fiscal years 1999 and 2000 the program budget was $1.9 million; an amount roughly equal to the five-year average expenditure... Basing the snow and ice control program’s budget on an average of historical expenditures provides a more realistic budget and decreases the reliance on the city’s contingency fund to pay for expected city operations.

But now, after nearly eight years under the current leadership, under a City Council on which many of the current candidates for mayor served, we no longer have a budget for snow removal.

Kansas City is, and will continue to be, a great city. But our leaders need to stay on top of basic service essentials. That's the kind of leadership I'll bring to the mayor's office.

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