Killeen City Manager-Ron Olson

Killeen City Manager, Ron Olson, is seen in his office on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017.

Gabe Wolf | Herald

Nearly a week removed from an audit presentation that revealed more than a decade’s worth of weakness in the city of Killeen’s financial management, City Manager Ron Olson intends to use the results to chart a financially sound path for his administration.

Olson was brought on with the city in February following a scramble by the City Council to find a manager with enough experience to right the ship after budget concerns and resident mistrust left the enterprise’s image in tatters.

Almost immediately, Olson undertook a number of initiatives — informed by his 37 years of management experience — to make the budget process more transparent to the public, provide more information for the council and get a hold of a spending plan that threatened to spiral out of control due to factors internal and external.

On Aug. 5, Olson accomplished step one: A balanced fiscal year 2018 preliminary budget that was a far cry from the famed $8 million projected shortfall in the budget of a year before.

The city’s management audit, which was approved at a cost of $394,000 by the council in March and officially ended Tuesday, is the next logical step in Olson’s rebuilding plan — a treasure trove of 26 financial policy recommendations that provide a logical path forward for Olson to completely overhaul the city’s financial policy structure.

With the city’s next major milestone directly ahead — the council’s budget approval vote Sept. 19 — Olson is already greasing the wheels to join his vision of the future with the results of the long-awaited, taxpayer-funded investigation.

PATH FORWARD

Olson said Friday the audit recommendations would be incorporated into two future initiatives: a “policy calendar” for the council and a citywide business plan that will provide the blueprint for the administration’s tasks moving forward.

Olson said the city of Killeen, like most cities he could recall, was fundamentally flimsy on policy framework — an observation reflected through most of Houston-based McConnell & Jones’s recommendations from the audit.

“We and virtually every other city I know of are weak when it comes to governing policy,” Olson said. “It’s an oxymoron because the primary job of a City Council is to adopt policy, and yet you can go to just about any city and say ‘show me your policy book,’ and they don’t have one.”

To change that, Olson said he and his staff would put together a list of needed financial decision-making policies for the council to review and assign priority. After a period of review and discussion, the council would list the policies by need and direct staff to draft the appropriate language.

“Policy is hard,” Olson said. “It’s hard work, and people don’t know how to do it. It’s taken me 40 years to figure it out.”

Olson also plans to incorporate the audit’s findings into a business plan, or departmental “to-do” list. Olson said a previous iteration of his business plan used during his city manager stint in Corpus Christi incorporated more than 10,000 items.

In Killeen, Olson said he expects a list just as long.

“When we look across the enterprise, every department has multiple functions, those functions have a mission, (and) they have mission elements,” Olson said. “They will now get actions and tasks, a responsible person and a deadline. The recommendations for the audit will go into that system as well as everything else we have to do.”

AUDIT DISPUTES

According to the city management response to the audit results Tuesday, Olson and his staff didn’t agree with every finding and recommendation from the firm.

The most glaring example was in the investigation of the city’s roadway ownership policy, in which Olson argued the firm provided at first glance unrealistic recommendations for a long-term road annexation plan.

The audit investigated the city’s policy for annexing county roads and paying for infrastructure improvements and repairs on those roads. One of the recommendations said the city could create a plan to predict and execute the annexation of roadways.

“I don’t want to dismiss their findings, but ... I don’t know how you plan for that when it’s the private sector that comes in and says ‘guess what, we’d look to do a development, and we’d like to annex that,’” Olson said. “You can’t see it coming until they walk through your door, most of the time. It’s hard to see right now how that part of their recommendation is going to really function for us.”

However, Olson highlighted the city needed to work on more thoroughly analyzing its relationship to private development, including reworking its cost/benefit projection analyses for “city/owner agreements” through which the city and a developer agree to oversize residential development infrastructure to meet future city needs.

“Their general observation applies here, too, that is that the way things are presented to the City Council needs to be very, very clear,” Olson said.

IMPROVING TRANSPARENCY

One of the ancillary goals of the audit was to improve transparency and patch a strained relationship between Killeen residents and the city government.

Olson thinks the audit helped accomplish that.

To provide further transparency, Olson outlined a plan to improve the visibility of City Council meetings by video taping every meeting and workshop and also recording other commissions such as the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission. City meeting minutes and audio recordings can currently be viewed on the city’s website at killeentexas.gov.

Olson also said he planned to institute community engagement meetings with the public to give department heads a chance to answer resident questions directly.

More importantly, Olson said he wants to create an “audit trail” of policies and decisions so future administrations and councils would have as much information as possible about why past decisions were made.

“The takeaways for me going forward are we need to make sure our staff reports are thorough so that in 10 years, when somebody else comes in to audit what we did, there’s evidence that we had the discussion and what was said to the city council,” Olson said.

“It’s a transparency issue for me.”


Go to http://bit.ly/2wGmoEC to read the firm’s final report, see http://bit.ly/killeenfinances for more articles on how municipal government impacts you, and check out http://bit.ly/managementaudit for continuing coverage of the investigative audit's results.

kyleb@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7567

(6) comments

Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer

@eyewatchingu: I will not disparage an individual whom I don't have any association with, but I draw the line when this city council, in closed secret session, met with this individual and it was not known that the city, in what I feel is an enormous salary and benefits, hired this individual when he had left his former position, as a city manager under a dark cloud. Not only did he, when he first arrived, said that he had looked at 'the iron clad contract' and did not know how we could get out from under it. He has since 'balanced the budget', but not the 8 percent step raise, but what is he doing to this infrastructure leaving the new water infrastructure intact. He has already started 'feasting on the blood of this city council by asking for additional funds when the city is expected to pass this city budget which will go into effect September 30, 2017. Where is the formulation of each department considering each own budget requirements, compromising as to what are the necessary requirements/demands that this city is expected to produce to form a cohesive structure??? I just don't see any of these requirements being met so this individual is operating just as his predecessors singing the same song.
I've asked for a chapter and verse as to the shenanigan that was pulled as to how this council was to vote on whether or not this was as per city charter and I have not received an answer.

When is he going to stipulate 'who is going to participate in the running of this city during the 2018 budget year when the Management audit was so dismal'????

It's good that you can praise Mr Olsen, but I can't for the reasons specified above.

This has been the personal opinion of this writer and nothing shall be used, in context or without or changed in any way without first notifying, and receiving explicit approval from this writer.
One of the 4.58 % who voted.

SnowWhiteNthe7Thieves

You betcha he'll learn, just become more clever.

THUGNIFICENT KILLED ME

Someone is spinning, spinning in circles to make you dizzy.

eyewatchingu

@Alvin take a look at this, its a market study done on Middletown Ohio while Mr. Olson was there. http://www.cityofmiddletown.org/docs/masterpl/pdf/market%20study.pdf

eyewatchingu

@Alvin Mr. Olson was a great city Manger when he was working for the city of Middletown Ohio. I have no clue what has happened. I have never seen this man not stand up and do what is right, until now. This is the same man that didn't take bull and would have locked them all up.
I am starting to think he is being forced into some things. Because Olson would not handle things this way!

Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.

To me, in my opinion, the actions you have undertaken does not constitute a closeness with this city or the city council.
When you say 'you are developing transparency when most of the city council 'is left out in the darkness with the rest of us' and you profess to 'have a balanced budget when you are transpiring to spend the assets of this city not a month before hoping to get a budget signed by September 30, 2017, and you will spend additional assets shortly after you get a budget signed', well im my opinion, that is not fulfilling your job I am sorry to say.
It is said that, and I have to paraphrase he as I am not able to copy from this newspaper any more, 'the key to your solving your plans, to solve your rebuilding plan with a 'treasure trove' of financial policy recommendations that provide a 'logical path' to meet those objectives.
Well one of the company's audit recommendations was to address this city's annexation of roadways. It is understanding that the existing city boundary is to remain more or less stagnant, the unassigned roadways and property lines will continue to be reflective of what the land owners and title holders of said land do not want 'anything changed', thus this city is going to 'pay for someone else's bills concerning water sewer and infrastructure responsibility's, and that is a known fact.

I recommend that this city council concern themselves with the layout of a projected 5 and 10 year plat and infrastructure design assigning just what this city needs in futuristic residential, retail, and manufacturing design, and then stick to it.

And 'how do you know if the 'long term roadway annexation plan if you don't have a viable plan to work with????

And I say 'the private sector should not oversee the city wide development plan, called a 5 and 10 year plan that is looked at on a continuing basis so that it not out of date as it is now, on a continuing basis.

And that to me is 'hop scotching' your way by Continual revision of ranch to residential to manufacturing to retail to industrial, etc. You don't 'wait until they come thru your doorway because it has already been incorporated into a city wide infrastructure plan. In other words, you don't build a new fire station and shut down an existing station or you don't build a police station out in the South 40 and the close down one in the center of the city, and on and on and on. You don't let a city contractor complete any contractual agreement without first 'notifying all of the city council, who is responsible for the maintenance of this city's well being and letting a contractor complete an agreement that encumbers this city's tax rate structure is, in my personal opinion, completely out of line'.
And in regard to 'transparency', well you will have to lift this veil of secrecy that has been hanging over this city for a number of years.

The one thing I agree on is this decision to 'institute community engagement meetings. Let's hope that does not fall apart, because of lack of community support.

And in conclusion, I hope you give considerable consideration to the way your present staff has conducted itself. I itself, 'heads need to be rolled starting from the top down'.

This has been the personal opinion of this writer and nothing shall be used, in context or without or changed in any way without first notifying, and receiving explicit approval from this writer.
One of the 4.58 % who voted.

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