At the recent Ways and Means Committee meeting, the City Council members voted to give $350,000 out of the city’s emergency reserves to an outside organization for a list of projects.  The content of the list is not material to this letter, and neither is the recipient.  What is at issue is that there was no list of specific deliverables, no specific budget, and no system for tracking the spend-down of the money.  The only “accountability” offered was a non-specific “report back.”

    In the world of government finance, money handed out to an organization without a specific budget, specific and measurable deliverables, and milestones for the spending of the dollars denies the taxpayers the transparency and accountability to which they are entitled.  After all, it is the taxpayer’s money.  Federal, state, and private grantors would be financially irresponsible to put out $3500 to another organization without such standard controls, let alone $350,000. These standard financial controls are normal operating procedures.  They provide transparency and accountability by means of a clear and detailed spending plan, accounting of the actual use down to the dollar if not the penny, and descriptions of how the deliverables were met.  

    In every sphere of government spending, granted money is tied to a specific budget, and system for detailed accounting of the spending, and some form of a contract for specific deliverables.  Except, apparently, Crookston, MN.

    Residents of Crookston need to be aware of these non-standard practices by the City Council.  No department in the City government can operate without these controls.  They are held to tight budgeting and reporting requirements and must justify the use of the finds in detail. This is required by the same Council that is freely giving large sums of money to other organizations with no such controls.  This split-vote decision of the Council in the Ways and Means meeting provides no transparency or accountability for this money.  And it is not the first time they have done this.  This decision is set to be approved on the consent agenda at the Council meeting Monday, November 5.

    This is taxpayer money.  It is your money, given in trust to the city for use on your behalf.  Is this how you want your money spent?