By Rich Heiland
Free Press Publications, LLC
For Walker County News Today
IN OUR FIRST look at some of the 32 Huntsville City Charter amendments on the Nov. 6 ballot we looked mostly at housecleaning types of amendments.
In this installment we will look at some amendments that mainly clean up financial areas where standard accounting practices have changed over time but the Charter has not. In some cases what is asked for is what the city has, in fact, been doing. That’s why there are so many amendments on this ballot – City Secretary Lee Woodward and City Attorney Leonard Schneider decided it was time to bite the bullet and do a major Charter Cleanup.
So, on to the purely financial changes:
Shall Article XI, Section 11.02 of the City Charter relating to fiscal procedures be amended by amending the first paragraph to read as follows:
The Director of Finance shall administer and supervise all financial affairs of the City, and to that end shall have authority and shall be required to ensure internal controls are in place to provide assurance that bills, invoices, payrolls, claims, demands or charges against the city are valid.
Explanation:This definition of duties precedes more detailed functions and reflects a more full area of responsibility than the current charter.
Shall Article XI, Section 11:02(d) of the City Charter relating to fiscal procedures be amended by amending subsection (d) so that Section 11.02(d) reads as follows:
‘”Review for approval before payment all bills, invoices, payrolls and other claims demands or charges against the City. The Director of Finance shall, when it is deemed necessary, seek the written advice of the City Attorney in order to determine the regularity, legality and correctness of such claims, demands, or charges, prior to presentation of the same to the Council for approval.
Explanation:This amendment drops the word “audit” from the Charter. “Audit” has legal definitions that probably would imply a more close review of all claims that most likely would be impossible given the number of those claims. This means the Financial Director (most likely with staff help) would review all claims and payments and if any jump out as concerns, get the written review from the City Attorney.
Shall Article XI, Section 11.02(e) of the City Charter relating to quarterly statements be amended by amending subsection (c) so that Section 11.02(e) reads as follows:
Submit to the Council through the Mayor a quarterly statement of all receipts and disbursements in sufficient detail to show the exact financial condition of the City, with provisions for public access.
Explanation: Currently the Charter requires a copy be placed in the Huntsville Public Library. This change simply requires “public access” which could include options beyond the library, such as at City Hall or on-line. It allows the city more options as changes in venues for public access might change. And, it also removes access from any changes in state law impacting Home Rule cities.
Shall Article XI, Section 11.02(h) of the City Charter relating to fiscal procedures be amended by amending subsection (h) so that Section 11.02(h) reads as follows:
Record all investments in investor funds of the City, or in the possession of the City in a fiduciary capacity.”
Explanation:Removes outdated and cluttered language. Inclusion of words like “all” and “fiduciary capacity” cover it.
Shall Article XI, Section 11.03 of the City Charter relating to depository procedures be amended by amending the last sentence to include the term “electronic” so that the last sentence of section 11.03 reads as follows:
“Provided, that the Council, under such regulations and limitations as it may prescribe, may by ordinance authorize the use of machine/electronic-imprinted signatures of said Mayor and City Manager on such checks, vouchers and warrants.”
“Explanation:Recognizes technology changes and reflects current accounting and finance procedures.
Shall Article XI, Section 11.09 of the City Charter relating to tax notes be amended for the year to read (stating tax year) rather than giving the year as “19__”
Explanation:When the Charter was written the millennium was a long way up and it never has been updated to reflect the 2000 sequencing of years.
NEXT: A look at amendments dealing with oversight of utilities and franchises.
Rich Heiland, former publisher of the Huntsville Item and owner of Free Press publications, LLC, a reporting/writing firm working with media, has been a reporter, editor and publisher at several daily papers. He was part of a Pulitzer Prize winning team. He taught journalism at Western Illinois University. He can be reached at email@example.com or 936-293-0293.