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Mayor can easily shift cash



There's plenty of controversy related to the scope of the mayor's authority over city money, but one seldom-mentioned power does not seem to be in dispute.

City code allows Mayor Steve Bach to authorize his chief financial officer to "transfer any unexpended City appropriation account balance or portion from one account number or classification of expenditure to another within the same department or special fund." In other words, the mayor — whose CFO position is notably vacant — may move certain money around throughout the year without City Council consent, so long as he does so within a department.

The setup means that the mayor could choose to transfer money from pothole repairs to park watering. Or from the city clerk's office to his new "economic vitality" team. That's because there aren't very many departments within the city's general fund.

When Council approved the budget this year, it also approved Bach's new department structure, setting each city enterprise as its own department and lumping basically everything else into the following four categories: police; fire; parks, planning and public works; and administration. Late in the budgeting process, Council added another department for its own expenses.

Steve Cox, chief of Economic Vitality & Innovation, notes that the departments are mostly self-explanatory, with a couple exceptions: The city auditor falls under the City Council department, and administration is a catch-all for everything that doesn't obviously fall elsewhere.

Council was at least partially aware of the law when it created its own department. It had originally been proposed that Council fall under administration, meaning its funds could have been redeployed to other uses throughout the year at the mayor's discretion. President Pro Tem Jan Martin pushed for separation.

"I think it's really important that City Council have its own department, so we can manage our funds on a more regular basis than what we've done in the past," she says. "You know, we have nine very active Council members."

— J. Adrian Stanley

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