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City Administrator Counters Remarks from Taylor Mill Candidates

A forum held last week in Taylor Mill featured three challengers for spots on the 4-member city commission - and also featured some comments about City Administrator Jill Bailey. Candidates Matthew Martin and Phil Peace suggested that secrecy and a lack of transparency exists at the city building.
 
Bailey said that not is not accurate.
 
"I can only assume they don't know how the city is run, and what safeguards and rules and regulations are in place," Bailey said. "I have been here 21 years, and I know how the city runs, but from their statements and innuendos, I don't think they do, so I would like to explain it."
 
Peace has long been at odds with the city administration over his proposal to have a United Dairy Farmers gas station and convenience store constructed on property that he owns in the new "downtown" Taylor Mill zone. The proposed design is inconsistent with the city's vision for the area, the city has argued. Peace said at last week's forums that decisions are made before the city commission presents the issues publicly.
 
Bailey said that is not true, and took particular exception to the candidates' characterization of the budget process. 
 
"Each department head prepares a budget proposal, usually around April," Bailey said. From there, department heads meet with the respective city commission assigned to their department. "After they go over the budget proposal, they meet with me and have a conversation about what is in each proposal."
 
Bailey said there is a basically a master budget and that she is able to make projections based on previous years. 
 
"We were one of the first cities in the area to be a debt-free city," Bailey stated. "I don't have pet projects. We need to buy a new ambulance, so we have been saving to buy it. We will be bidding it this fiscal year, and buying it next fiscal year. There is no magical percentage of how much we save for each thing we need, but it does matter how urgent a priority it is."
 
Right now, some of the projects that the city has on its list:n the ambulance, police cruiser replacement, playground equipment replacement, a new city building, street repair, sidewalks, and lighting on Pride Parkway. These are what the commissioners have on the list, not what Bailey wants on the list, necessarily, she said. About ten years ago the city had its own water department, and when the city sold it, it contracted to receive payments for 15 years totaling $3 million. The commission knew that this was a one time thing so it voted to put the funds into an account to save for a new city building.
 
Other funds are also put aside for larger projects like the city building, as well as for "rainy days".
 
"If that number is, say, $3 million, we have to put 15 percent of that aside," explained Bailey. "The premise is that the city is supposed to have six months of expenses, so the city can operate for six months if something catastrophic happened. That number changes every year but we always have 15 percent of that number put aside in a separate account."
 
Bailey also stressed that there is a system of checks and balances to protect the city's finances. The city operates on a purchase order system, so anyone who needs to make a purchase fills out a purchase order which is signed by the department head. It is then sent to Bailey for review, and if it is in compliance with the budget, she signs it. If it is not in compliance, she denies it and it goes back to the department.  
 
Police Chief Steve Knauf acts as the assistant City Manager, so he fills in when Bailey is absent. When the amounts for checks are given to the city, Angie Wright, who is the finance person, plugs them into the financial software, and checks are cut. Each check requires two signatures, and they are always done manually; there are no stamps. Knauf, Bailey, and Sandy Meyer are the three people who can sign checks, so it is always a combination of two out of the three whose signatures are on any given check.
 
A representative from Branel and Ackley comes to the city at least once a month, sometimes more, to review the journal entries, and the bank records, to act as a second set of eyes to make sure all the transactions are correct. 
 
"Usually if you have more segregation of responsibilities, you have to be big enough to have an accounts payable and an accounts receivable department," Bailey said. "I don't have an organization that large. They recognize that we are a smaller organization and that we have put safeguards in place. We have had the suggestion for about three years, and we have tried to make adjustments every year toward that end."
 
Stephanie Allgeyer, CPA, CFE, and a shareholder with VonLehman, said that the city segregates the duties as much as it can, considering the size of its professional staff.
 
"Jill doesn't have access to any of the accounting records," said Allgeyer. "In other words, it would be very difficult for her to 'cook any books' without access to the records."
 
Allgeyer said the city has nonetheless made changes each year, and noted that the police chief has stepped in and assumed more responsibility. She said the goal is to have everything separate, but she believes they are doing what they can with what they have.
 
"I would like to say for the record that we don't hoard money," Bailey stated. "Everything is earmarked in a plan for the future, and that is what the commissioners voted to have, so that is what I do. They want to be a debt free city, but if you do that you have to save for things, so that is what we do. My job is to make the city run smoothly, and carry out the plans of the commissioners. I agree that more development means more money, but the city created a 25-year development plan in which they created a vision, along with a consultant, and they held public hearings to see what the people wanted. This was back in 2007, and then we had one of the worst commercial crashes in 2008-2009. But there is a plan in place. I don't get involved with politics. I take my marching orders from the commission. Everything is done at their direction."
 
Written by Patricia A. Scheyer
Photo: Jill Bailey