A message from City of Castle Pines North treasurer
Letter to the Editor from City Treasurer Doug Gilbert
The city has now entered a phase when its budgeted expenses need reduction. In Colorado, cities cannot spend more than revenue. Current revenues do not support budgeted expenses so adjustments must be made.
Managing the finances in a start up city is fraught with unpredictability in good economic times, let alone in the midst of the greatest economic crisis the country has seen in over 60 years. Castle Pines North is no exception and must now make adjustments in its budget to conform to revenues.
Given current needs, action has to be taken and I outline some key aspects of that below. That is nothing new for a city and is being done in virtually every city in Colorado. Our city is perfectly capable of undertaking this action.
When the idea of incorporating our community bubbled up in October 2006, there were some pivotal ideas that often were mentioned. Of those, two remain in my mind as central to why we should, as a community, seek to become a city: control of our destiny and accountability. A key part of accountability of government is transparency in financial matters.
Over the past nearly year and a half since official incorporation, city government has certainly demonstrated the benefits of control over our destiny with the LaGae rezoning and now with the potential of The Canyons annexation. That same period has not demonstrated, in my estimation, an acceptable level of accountability and especially in financial transparency.
Many transparency issues arise early in any city’s life due to the complexity of forming a city. New systems have to be put into place, new people hired, and city officials have to learn the complexities of municipal government and finance.
Estimates of revenues and expenses have to be made with no historical guide and often incomplete information from other governmental entities. As we learn and grow, changes in approach will be required.
The City of Castle Pines North took a unique approach in outsourcing virtually all city services, except legal and law enforcement, to a single contractor. During the incorporation feasibility phase, several models of public-private outsourcing for city services were examined.
Generally the research for these models returned positive results and provided support the notion of outsourcing. Our research did not, however, provide us with a full understanding of the need for both strategic and operational checks and balances. Having both is key to accountability and transparency.
As we now understand, with the benefit of hindsight, virtually all of the outsourced city services models have some form of operational checks and balances placed on all contractors. Usually this comes in the form of a city manager hired by the city, with accountability to all city officials. Such a city manager owes loyalty only to the city and to no contractor.
City council and other elected officials, in contrast, provide only strategic checks and balances, not the needed day-to-day oversight. Our model of outsourcing does not have an independent city manager. Such a level of indepence could be provided by hiring a different firm to manage and oversee finance and accounting functions.
It is my belief that the current outsourcing structure needs to be changed and that the changes should be made yesterday. To provide needed operational checks and balances, the change that I advocate and have advocated for months, is to remove all finance and accounting functions from the current city management firm. Instead, those tasks should be carried out by an independent professional accounting firm.
My initial research indicates that cost of this change will not exceed budgeted costs and should save the city money. Such a change would also provide much needed operational checks and balances through independent advice from a firm held to the highest professional standards of the accounting profession.
At the time of writing this column, I consulted the city website and noted that no monthly financial reports have been published since September 2008. It is difficult to express my level of frustration and disappointment as treasurer at this situation. I have heard of similar frustrations from many citizens of the city. This sorry state mandates the significant immediate change that I proposed above.
Additionally, I am making an offer as your elected treasurer to conduct information sessions on the current financial state of the city. More needs to be done in terms of contract adjustments and much of that accountability is in the hands of the mayor and city council. In my mind, council’s first step needs to be placing operational finance and accounting with an independent professional accounting firm immediately.
If there is an interest in city financial information sessions or for information on any other matters where I can provide information, please feel free to contact the treasurer at Contact by e-mail .