Anybody who says something like “isn't it past time we see change at the local level?” hasn’t been paying attention to what’s happened at the local level in the past four years.
And the first place to look would be the City’s finances.
For years, the City of Saginaw’s audits were late, because financial records were a mess. When the audits were completed, months behind schedule, they always contained “material weaknesses” – examples cited by the auditors of inadequate or shoddy practices.
Council approved a budget each spring, but then flew pretty blindly the rest of the year – because those faulty practices made quarterly or monthly budget-to-actual reports a rarity.
And because the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing, millions of dollars in taxes and fees went uncollected.
Today, audits are completed on time. The only weaknesses cited in management letters in audits relate to the cleanup of errors of the past. Council gets regular budget-to-actual reports. Millions of dollars in arrears have been collected. And it’s all because the City of Saginaw’s current fiscal services team rocks.
If the members of City Council over the last four years accomplished nothing else, overseeing the assembly of that team is impressive enough.
That doesn’t mean everything is coming up roses financially. We still face declining revenues and increasing costs and at least another year or two of a difficult economy. But instead of wringing our hands and fretting, we've been rolling up our sleeves and figuring how to make it work. And it's a lot easier, now that we can actually see where the money's going.