Maumee implements state audit suggestionsWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
After a nearly yearlong process, the Ohio Auditor of State’s Office has released its findings on Maumee from a performance audit. The office came up with 21 recommendations, which could save the city more than $1.3 million if implemented.
Many of those recommendations, however, have already been made a reality in the past year or so, said City Administrator John Jezak.
“In some ways, it was just a second opinion that we were on the right path,” he said. “We took everything in stride; we were looking for some advice and we got it.”
To compile the suggestions, a performance audit compares cities with similar sized populations based on five factors: financial management, governance, human resources, public safety and public services. The auditor’s office compared Maumee to Perrysburg, Vandalia and Marysville.
Council unanimously voted for the audit, which cost $30,000, about a year ago, said Maumee City Council President Richard Carr.
Since 2008, $44,000 has been the midrange cost of a city performance audit, said Michael Maurer, spokesperson for the auditor’s office. In 2011, the office conducted 13 of these audits.
One of the changes the auditor’s office recommended was increasing the span of control in the public service, police and fire departments, potentially saving the city $562,000. This would mean eliminating supervisory positions through attrition by three in the fire department, four in public services and improving the distribution of staff for police. The audit also said eliminating four other positions in the public services department could save an additional $154,000.
Some of these changes have already been started. The city response found in the audit said “a plan for the reorganization of the Department of Public Service was approved by Council in 2010, reducing full-time employees from 53 to 46, including reduction of four managerial positions and three non-supervisory positions.”
The response also indicated that the city would take further restructuring of the public service administrative staff into consideration as well. Jezak said he doesn’t believe any drastic staffing changes are in order, however, and that the city has been making minor staffing changes for a while.
“All that stuff will add up over time and generate hundreds of thousands dollars worth of savings,” he said.
Carr emphasized the city does not plan on reducing the number of police officers.
“I do not believe we would even consider reducing our officers. We feel it’s very important to maintain a very strong police presence in the community,” he said.
As for the fire department, he doesn’t believe the audit took into account the fact that the division is staffed with 55 volunteers. However, the city response to the audit did say a plan for reorganization of that department was submitted to council in December 2011.
The city has also recently made changes to how it charges criminals. By charging offenders under the Ohio Revised Code instead of the Maumee Municipal Code, the city stands to save as much as $300,000, Carr said.
This means instead of the city incurring incarceration charges, the county would, Jezak said.
The audit also recommended limiting city overtime to save $355,000. Carr said the overtime issue was dealt with through collective-bargaining last year. The new 2011 amendments cut back on double time in the city and updated the right of first refusal for overtime assignments for police sergeants.
The city also already increased health care insurance contributions from city employees to 15 percent up from 10 percent, another suggestion made in the audit, Carr said. Adjusting the health care insurance contributions to peer levels could save the city $85,000 per year, according to the report.
The auditor’s office also suggested creating “a comprehensive multi-year strategic plan that outlines its long-term vision” in addition to a five-year financial forecast. The city’s response said it had purchased a CIPFA-GFOA FM Model, an online tool via the Government Finance Officers Association, to help create the plan and an Authority Performance Managers software system to help with the forecast.
“This business information system software will provide greater financial reporting and analysis capacity,” according to the audit.
Although Jezak was unsure of the costs of these new computer programs at press time, he said costs were “minimal.”
Also as part of the audit’s recommendations, the city plans to start an audit committee “to improve overall financial reporting, address issues or concerns from external and internal audit reviews, and educate key stakeholders about the City’s financial activities” by the end of 2012, according to the audit.
State Auditor Dave Yost praised the city for its undertaking of the audit in a news release.
“It takes courage and character to conduct a full examination of your own operations,” Yost said. “The city had that courage, and it’s paid off with some real opportunities.”
Jezak and Carr believe the results show the efficiency and security of the city.
“We’re very pleased that they came out and said we’re financially sound,” Carr said.