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Auditors report on budget reviews in peer cities

Friday, September 4, 2015 by Jo Clifton

At the request of Mayor Steve Adler, the City Auditor’s Office has analyzed the workings of budget review functions in seven cities considered Austin’s peers: Dallas, Denver, Fort Worth, Portland (Oregon), Sacramento, San Antonio and San Diego. The auditors found that the Dallas sunset review process, led by its Office of Financial Services, was the most similar to the state of Texas’ sunset process. However, Dallas chose not to hire additional employees or spend extra money to do its analysis of city departments. In contrast, Portland, which operates its review process through the city’s budget office, recently allocated more than $2.3 million for that function. In California, San Diego and Sacramento each hired an independent budget analyst with staff. San Diego’s budget for that section was more than $1.7 million, and Sacramento’s budget was $446,000. Some of the reviewers concentrate on fiscal matters, while others act more like business process consultants to help departments improve their performance, the auditors wrote. “While most peer cities employ highly trained staff specifically for the purpose of conducting these two primary views, Dallas uses existing employees already working within the city departments to conduct these reviews on a part-time basis for eight weeks each year,” the report says. In the three Texas cities, reviewers report to the city manager. In the other four cities, reports are made to the mayor or to the city council as a whole.

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