Regarding the City of Southport’s financial situation, our community and my administration are challenged with important realities as Southport strives (struggles) to move forward. Our small size and limited resources make it difficult to attract skilled capable residents to city government.
Not only must one be capable – one must also be willing – and live in within the borders of the city. Recent incivilities in the nation, the state and yes, right here in our own small city has considerably reduced the number of capable individuals who want to step up to volunteer their time. If you rely on volunteers, one must also accept the limitations when those valued volunteers experience the inevitable conflicts with time, family and career. Ask yourself; how willing are you to volunteer your time to help your community? How willing are you to tolerate the slings, arrows and accusations – along with the unfortunate incivility – for $600 a month, $3 an hour or as a volunteer as you strive to assist your community?
While I too, wish the tasks and responsibilities of the office of Clerk-Treasurer were being better managed, the reality is that after decades of neglecting the growing responsibilities of compliance and complexities of municipal accounting, our community has fallen behind. We learned upon taking office that the office of Clerk-Treasurer was under supported, understaffed and underperforming.
Over those same decades, our community has chosen – some argue responsibly – to apply limited resources to the operational costs of doing municipal business. Sooner or later, this approach comes back to haunt the community by costing more to do less.
Cathy Hildebrand was the only one who stepped up to fill the vacancy when the previous clerk-treasurer resigned. According to statute, the Marion County Republican Chairman appointed Ms. Hildebrand. Contrary to our council’s belief, Clerk-treasurers do not report to mayors. Furthermore, State law prohibits mayors from handling the clerk-treasurer’s responsibilities, overseeing her performance or removing her from office.
As is the case with all small cities, state law also prohibits mayors from hiring budget & finance controllers to manage fiscal operations. That leaves one option: to utilize the professional services of a financial consultant. Unfortunately, our Council members restricted that resource by stripping professional services funding for that position from our budget last year. I argued against that shortsighted approach without success. It’s hard to lead a team that doesn’t want to play, or even dress for the game.
As the Council, community and the media were publicly forewarned this spring, the negative findings in the 2009 financial report were anticipated, given it took most of 2009 for the Clerk-Treasurer to correct errors from her predecessor. While I am not pleased with the results of the report, there is no surprise here.
Rebuilding Southport with a robust, proactive government structure, enhanced service levels, increased citizen involvement, grants and partnerships throughout the Southside takes teamwork and a desire to see our community improve. It is easy to criticize without offering real solutions. It takes courage, determination and leadership to deal with reality while remaining focused on progress.
Source: Letter to IndyStar