Mar 26, 2014 2:06 AM
The independent audit report at Tuesday’s meeting revealed the city's general budget fund is in a deficit totaling more than $7 million but officials say they've known about being in the red throughout the audit process and have taken measures to be prepared. "It's important for the public to know that we had already anticipated a lot of what's come out with the audit. This audit has gone on for a significant period of time. So as findings began to materialize internally, we were already creating responses to that," explained Chico Mayor Scott Gruendl.
The city hired a new firm to conduct the audit that dug deeper and helped them realize some underlying issues. "We are now being very clear and open, transparent, and honest about the city's financial situation," said Gruendl. Now that the city doesn't have a piggy bank to use for unbudgeted items, they're looking to voters to help make financial decisions. "Many of the answers to how we will move forward will require a vote of the public. Should the public decide to finance a highway expansion, for example, they will actually get to vote on it."
Mayor Gruendl says he accepts some of the responsibility to the situation the city is in but resigning would be the easy way out. He decided to become mayor during the most difficult financial time in the city's history in order to help solve the problem. "I have aged in the very limited time that I have been mayor and I’ve had many, many sleepless nights when I worry about the layoffs of the people and the families that are affected by that, how close we've come to insolvency, and the fact that I take significant pride in my service to the public." He also says he'll work hard to make sure everyone on the city staff is on board with the changing financial climate. "The best thing I can do is get rid of the bad apples out of my ranks and that is as much important to me as taking responsibility as an elected official. The public deserves better and the public is going to get better."
The process won't happen overnight and the policy changes will take at least a year to go into effect. Also at tonight's meeting, a new policy was approved to accept reports of fraud, waste, and abuse in the city. Employees will have the opportunity to make a report anonymously without fear of losing their job.
2 days ago