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Killeen financial decisions: Accountability and action

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KILLEEN FINANCES

External auditors told Killeen administrators and council members the city should fix more than two dozen critical financial problems, but patterns reminiscent of past decision-making appear to be surfacing in the weeks after the audit results were announced. The audit showed that over the past decade, city spending went unchecked, debt increased and an overall lack of fiscal discipline was observed, according to the Sept. 5 findings of Houston-based public accounting firm McConnell & Jones. The firm's management audit began in March after residents called for an investigation into the root of financial problems.

To help residents and council members track taxpayers' and ratepayers' money, as well as to put decisions in perspective, the Herald will chart potential choices and votes that are similar to the audit's key findings. Several of these findings are itemized in the far left column, followed to the right by fiscal choices executed against that category since September. A column to the right of that shows when guidelines are followed.

There are mixed opinions in the community about many issues. This chart is not a comment on the merits of any individual proposal or vote. It's designed for insight into how Killeen got into deep trouble in recent years and whether historic spending patterns will be repeated. Here's what we have so far:

Killeen City Council/Audit Decisions

AUDIT FINDING PATTERNS THAT REPEAT GUIDELINES FOLLOWED
Outstanding debt for governmental activities increased dramatically over the past 10 years. The city's percentage of debt to total net position, including governmental funds and enterprise funds, increased to 130 percent in fiscal year 2016 from 49 percent in fiscal year 2007. This debt increase is contributed to capital projects such as adding infrastructure; renovating facilities and new buildings. The city discussed a potential bond Nov. 28 for about $46 million in road improvements to accommodate increased traffic to proposed schools in the southern section of Killeen around Chaparral and Featherline roads. Nothing has been approved yet.
The city entered into grant agreements that required significant matching funds or commitments for future salaries. These decisions did not consider the long-term financial impact on the city's general fund. Approved a state grant to buy 225 rifle-resistant body armor vests and plates for the Killeen Police Department totaling $127,350. No local funding match is required, but the armor would need to be replaced in five years and new equipment purchased. No funding source was identified for that.
The city did not have adequate policies governing the transfer of money out of the enterprise funds — trash, water and sewer, drainage and airport funds — to prevent misuse or misallocation of restricted funds. New financial governance policies approved Dec. 19 address several areas including: interfund loans, year-end encumbrances, debt management, purchasing policy, lien waiving and investments.
The city does not have a long-range capital projects master plan originating from a comprehensive needs assessment that factors in long- and short-term funding needs. Council consensus against City Manager Ron Olson’s preference to keep the city reserves, or emergency savings account, at 22 percent to 25 percent of the operating budget. Final vote Dec. 19 officially reduced the amount to 18 to 22 percent.
Chart compiled by Herald Digital Producer Angel Sierra

(12) comments

Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.

@dailymajor: Well you just couldn't see your way to having a civilized conversation so you revert to sensual verbiage. You and your partner that can't to seem to come up with an argument revert to name calling. So I will answer you with simplistic one word answers, yes, no, maybe.
What about the rest of your comminique???? You did not see it as advantageous to sport with me on the various points of conversation, you just chose to swell up and start your berating of me. So much for having a meaningful dialogue.

And I did answer you:

Copy: 'And I am amassed you do not know my name as it has been plastered all over the newspaper and to some degree, Facebook. What a sheltered like you mustbe living.' End of copy.

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.

Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.

@daily major:

Copy: 'Alvin, first off, I don't think it is the people from Louisiana that stayed, causing our crime problem. There weren't that many of them that stayed. ..Do you not think that our crime problem, in part,comes from us being a military town? Young guys, some of questionable character (let's be honest here), that have family and "friends" come to Killeen with them are not a major part of the problem? We have gang members from California, Chicago, New York, all over the country come to Killeen, don't we? I believe that at one time we had something like 16 different gangs operating in Killeen?' End of copy.

You have just pin pointed that you may have opinions, but not concrete ones with 'People that came from Louisiana that stayed, causing our problem, there were not that many of them', or 'do you not think that our crime problem, in part, comes from us being a military town', and 'We have gang members from California, Chicago, New York Don't we'.
To start at the top, You have just spoken in relative numbers, 'Not that many of then'. What's 'not that many', 15 or 5000. Our crime problem comes from us being a military town. Again 'how many would constitute a 'crime problem'. And as to Gangs being from California, Chicago, or New York, What about gangs from south of the border? You did not mention these.

How many is 'not that many', us being a military town, again what would constitute not many verses too many', and outside gangs from California, Chicago, and New York, and say from south of the border.

Yes I think it is the sum total of all of these aspects and not just one.

All toll, it is my personal opinion that this nation being on more or less of a war footing since 2002 I think it was, that has caused some our our military footing posture. You can look at what the figures as to the crime problem between years of being on a war footing and not on a war footing.
Again you can look up the statistics of before and after the Hurricane and see what the effect was and still is.

And as to gang related crime, yes it is a continuing problem, but with that, is there a continuum that can be used as an effectual time where the problem has the worst case. I personally think that there is and it came from the Obama years and still lingers today.

I seem to remember that when a town such as ours has a military presence, the military would help out the local police force, such as the Navy helping out with SP's, Shore Patrol, or the Air force helping out with AP's. Why is it that this is not a good solution for subsidizing our police force thus reducing the scope and size for or police department???? Remember the KPD budget is already at a whopping 73 percent and you are proposing it be more.

As far as our having a 'no tolerance' policy, That should have been started years ago. And your question: copy: 'Yes, it would cost more, but how much is your safety worth?' End of copy.

Isn't this the same premise as you stated with the schools and the education department, 'what is an education worth and do you want to short change our youth'???? Must it be put on a straight line format where you say if it is below the line it's OK, but if it's above the line it's not OK. Who gets to draw the line????

And yes I believe Olsen is a more stringent calculator than Green was as he has his contract set up to be of a more 'unhealthy for the city'. And you state that 'it was a buy out', but you do not say what the city's continuing pursuit of this problem should be. It can be said that this city and it's present government has not seemed to solve this age old problem. Does then suggest 'we still have a problem of transparency????

Copy: 'As for you not running for an office that you criticize so freely, because you get more of an audience here? Alvin, you don't.... Very few people read your comments, whereas many would listen to you if you were an elected official..and...I have never seen your name.' End of copy.

Well I gave you my reasoning for not wanting to run for office and you say that if I were an officer of this court, I would have more people listening to me. Well all I can say is that is your opinion and you are welcome to it. I for one do not share this opinion with you. Now if you want to start berating me, give it your best shot.

And I am amassed you do not know my name as it has been plastered all over the newspaper and to some degree, Facebook. What a sheltered like you mustbe living.

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.

dailymajor

Alvin, Alvin,...I made a silly mistake. I thought that you might just want to have a serious discussion about the issues. Instead, as usual, you turn it into one of your standard rants, trying to put down what I said and impress with your omnipotent knowledge. Don't know why you crave that attention and have to feel like you are right all the time, exclusively, but I do understand that is just the way it is. Rant on, rant on...As popular as you seem to believe that you are, it does seem that I would have seen your name, but, alas, I haven't, and you didn't see fit to mention it.....Do your best to impress and get that attention that you missed somewhere along the way...rant on, rant on.

Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.

@dailymajor: Now how can you state: Copy: 'Alvin, first of all, my questions were directed at time, not you', and Copy: 'Since you just jumped in'.

Question: What time reference do you care to comment on. My questions and my comments are directed at this present day age age. If you are referring to my comments of yesteryear, they pertain to not only years ago, but what pertains now.
And what have I commented on but circumstances that pertain to this city and this school board, and conditions that pertain to this city. I believe this city has a problem and it's 'overspending in all areas', and current conditions that refer to this city scope including the KEDC and over-riding conditions that pertain to what is, in my opinion, the city council and city manager area of responsibility, which is not done at this present time.

I did not ever comment on this city council and mayor until mayor Hancock 'gave' the city manager Green, a check for $750,000 dollars, which was over the limit of his contract, and to this day he has not mentioned what it was for, even during the last city management audit, $394,000 dollars. Does that exist in your definition of 'what is transparency'????

I have no qualm as to the KPD having K-9 units nor a SWAT unit, but I am of the opinion that these 2 units do not constitute the bulk of the annual budget of the KPD. It it a contributing factor then I would ask, 'I would have to say that each and every individual must be a SWAT member and conversely Does every KPD person have a dog that is in the K-9 core. I believe these are minor encumbrances to the overall budget.

Crime in Eileen is somewhat unique, and I say that as a few years back we had some people from Louisiana who moved to Killeen and stayed. Another thing is 'we have a unique gang problem that doesn't seem to want to go away and I am not sure who and how it is addressed by. A third problem that I feel is unique to Killeen is 'we have to address each and every problem that exists as money, money, and money. We just don't pay our officers enough. I have poised the question, what about the general budget that carries the new recruits, the training program, and upon graduation for 18 months the salary's of the new recruits. How much would that inflate our already over inflated budget????

Every time I ask a 'what if' question, I do not get an answer, or an ambiguous answer that does pertain to anything.

And as to your question of running for mayor, for councilman, or the school board, I ask you in response, 'WHY'???? If I did take a seat on this, I would just be another sole who would get lost in the shuffle, so I choose to air my complaining as to what is wrong with this city in the Daily Herald so I can get to a larger audience. And as to 'my anonymity', I don't think that it is a deep dark secret as I've given my name 2 or 3 times in the past, my name was just given about a week ago, and I've written about this town to Facebook, of and I have written to councilpersons before, so I don't think it is a 'deep dark secret', so there is no anonymity there to speak about.

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.

dailymajor

Alvin, first off, I don't think it is the people from Louisiana that stayed, causing our crime problem. There weren't that many of them that stayed. ..Do you not think that our crime problem, in part,comes from us being a military town? Young guys, some of questionable character (let's be honest here), that have family and "friends" come to Killeen with them are not a major part of the problem? We have gang members from California, Chicago, New York, all over the country come to Killeen, don't we? I believe that at one time we had something like 16 different gangs operating in Killeen?
....I believe, among other things, that we do need more police, more patrols, and a no tolerance policy toward crime in Killeen. Yes, it would cost more, but how much is your safety worth?
...The Green fiasco was a travesty. It was a buyout, as is written in many contracts. Not good at all for the tax payers,but it happens. Hopefully, the city learned, but do you not think Olson has a similar agreement in his contract?...
As for you not running for an office that you criticize so freely, because you get more of an audience here? Alvin, you don't.... Very few people read your comments, whereas many would listen to you if you were an elected official..and...I have never seen your name.

Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.

Adailymajor: Well here we go again, more ya-ya-ya. Don't have anything better than rag on me????
Now as to specifics, when did Killeen get a population that is over 160,000???? The last I heard, about 2 or 3 months ago, Killeen's population was just over 140,000. And I did not say anything about armored personnel carriers other than for the last 2 to 4 years now I have been asking the question as to how many times has the new armored personnel carrier had to drive over the bridge that had a weight limitation on it. I still have not had that answer, and remember, the KPD Dennis Baldwin was the chief and said that the old armored personnel carrier, that the Air Force 'gave' us for free, was too heavy for 1or 2 of the bridges that the police would have to use and would force the KPD to use an alternate route which would entail a number of minutes longer to get to the scene. We have not heard about the 'new armored personnel carrier, what bridge that it was that they said that would be the delaying factor. That was 2 to 4 years ago now and growing.
I questioned the need for the new ceramic armor plates that will now be replaced in 5 years. I questioned the specified time as being required for replacement, and I questioned whether or not the expected funds would be available or not.
And I believe that @timebandid: was the one to have statements, not questions, about the K-9 and Swat teams, so you can crucify him on that one.
But I do think that having an annual budget that totals approximately 73 percent of the total budget 'does seam a little excessive to me. Now that was a personal observation, you can get your own.

And as to city manager Ron Olsen, no I do not think he is doing a bang up job at all. With the $394,000 dollar budget and our legal leader stating she was responsible for the shredding of what could have been important documents that could had led to the possibility of criminal indictment, but we will never know now can we and this city manager has not done anything about this has he, not even a slap on the wrist, nothing. So, in my opinion, we just wasted $394,000. The programs that our city manager has suggested and commented on are in my opinion, minor inducements to say the least. Our city manager has not gone out of his way to look at the city water contract, just to say, 'we cannot get out of it'. We have not heard one thing about the KEDC organization and what he thinks of this. I am of the opinion that to have 3 city council members on the board of directors, and to have it since 1990 that the KEDC can and does operate as a single entity, able to enter into contracts that they do not 'save harmless' the city, and the fact that this city gives the KEDC over $150,000 dollars annually and they are a money making organization, and this city manager has done nothing about it. I've called on this city manager to 'save harmless' this city and doing away with the KEDC and city council sweetheart arrangement, but nothing has been done about that also, so no I am not impressed as I see it as 'business is usual' around city hall and the city administration.
And as to your statement: 'I think you have too much time on your hands', what is other peoples opinions on this question. To me I don't the power to make changes.

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.

dailymajor

Alvin, first of all, my questions were directed at time, not you. Hate to deflate your swollen ego. ..Since you just jumped in, what would you do about crime in Killeen? Do you think K-9 units are necessary?? SWAT?...You seem to think you are pretty much an expert on everything. Why don't you run for Mayor, or the City Council, or the School Board?..or..would you rather just gripe, complain, and fuss in the paper about all things KIlleen in complete anonymity?

dailymajor

Alvin, misspoke on population,my bad. Was thinking of something else when I wrote that figure..but will ask you, is our PD budget out of line with other cities our size.especially considering our "unique" problems? .. and...How would you stop crime in Killeen?..Do you think K-9 patrols are good and necessary?...Do we need SWAT?..Again, how would you stop the crime wave in KIlleen?

timebandid

I appreciate Alvin's input int he comments section. I personally agree that there is to much of the city budget going to the Police and Fire Dept. This should be evaluated and reduced each year until it is in line with the average of other cities of our size. These two departments will always want more and m re money, just like the military. But the amount being spent on K-9 units, SWAT Teams, Armored Personnel Carriers, and the like should be reduced. We are not seeing a significant return on the taxpayer's investment.
I do appreciate the work that our City Manager, Ron Olson, has been doing and hope that he will continue to help make the city's financial records and business decisions to be open and transparent.

dailymajor

time, what should we do about the crime rate in Killeen? Are you of the belief that the Police budget for KIlleen is more than other cities with over 160,000 population? I don't know about Armored carriers, but..you don't think K-9 units and SWAT teams are necessary?..Again, how would you reduce crime in Killeen? Reduce the PD budget, discourage new recruits for the department, don't worry about retaining the officers we have, pay less, or ???

dailymajor

Alvin, is there anything you don't know all about? I think you might have too much time on your hands.

Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.

In my opinion, this city has not had a good means of generating an annual budget, nor a good plan for the long term general organizational plan for the development of this city.

Much of the defunct city organization relies on the members of the city council and their organizational attitude at letting an organization, KEDC, to allow continue to fund this organization with a 2 percent annual fee along with a directive to the city council that supports this KEDC to enter into contracts, that does not hold this city harmless, and is a money producing venture, and that does not even present to this council for a vote because of the automatic council membership of three council members on the board so that there is a more or less 'automatic voting of the city council that continually gets an automatic continued access. And this has carried back to 1990.

It is in my opinion that this KEDC body should be completely separate and apart from the city council so as to address these failures in overlapping jurisdictional policy making. And by doing so, bring back the voice of this council 'in all matters', operational and jurisdictional.

I am ODF the opinion that a return the city's reserves to it's 25 percent margin in that it should be required that this city define it's lowest margin as a minimum of 25 percent.

Drop this city's requirement of advancing the roadways in an effort to support the schools thereby dropping the requirement for a $46.1 million dollar bond along with the KISD and it's requirement for a $426 million dollar bond. This city cannot afford this.

And this city has voted to authorize money for the replacement of armor plates for the protection of the Police department that needs to be replaced in 5 years. I asked the question, 'why is it necessary to 'replace these 'ceramic' armor plates at the age of 5 years. I don't think this council even asked this question. So therefor, Please ask these and other pertinent questions in the future. And since we have already voted to accept this armor, use diligence in requiring that a fund be started to equate to the equivalent funding at the end of the term of 5 years by passing an automatic budget authorization that will be equal to the equivalent funds at the end of the life of the armor plates. If automatic funding was required, it would very quickly be found that 'this city cannot afford these automatic funding of programs that this simply cannot afford. Also I ask this council if some other method of protecting the police department can be found.

As to the recent article on the DOJ, it is something that this city who has an annual benefit of 73 percent going for items denoted as safety administration, I question the amount of the budget for such items and question 'why' we are having to devote this amount, on a constant and increasing basis and neglect such items and activities as transportation, ie: roadways, water and trash, etc. Are we then a city that is more violent than other cities regardless of the size of the city, so violent and obtrusive that we are constantly being asked for more and more funds for this police department? I feel that we, as a city, are being asked for a disproportionate amount of funding. We should have a program that addresses these needs and maybe that is what the DOJ will fill and address.

And in the area of 'audit finding', I do indeed find that 'The city did not have adequate policies governing the transfer of money out of the enterprise funds — trash, water and sewer, drainage and airport funds — to prevent misuse or misallocation of restricted funds.' I do find that this council erred in 'New financial governance policies approved Dec. 19 address several areas including: interfund loans, year-end encumbrances, debt management, purchasing policy, lien waiving and investments.' and I do agree that 'The city does not have a long-range capital projects master plan originating from a comprehensive needs assessment that factors in long- and short-term funding needs.' and I do agree that this 'Council consensus against City Manager Ron Olson’s preference to keep the city reserves, or emergency savings account, at 22 percent to 25 percent of the operating budget. Final vote Dec. 19 officially reduced the amount to 18 to 22 percent.' But in my opinion, The city manager is extremely lacking in forward thinking, such as the water plant contract, the roadways and bridge bond, etc.

But now I believe this city is lax in the presentation of 'what this city intends to include in the bid for outside service of garbage disposal service, Copy from excerpts from another article:

Copy: 'Now, the council will take bids from private companies that want in on running the city’s solid waste department. The council decided Nov. 28 to move forward with the bidding process.'

Continuation of copy: 'The privatization of solid waste removal has the potential to bring back curbside recycling, but there is no guarantee. The city can also add on curbside recycling if it takes advantage of identified efficiencies and associated costs savings, according to city spokeswoman Hilary Shine.'

Continuation of copy: 'The curbside recycling service was suspended Sept. 30, 2016. The Killeen City Council cut the program, citing low participation and finances, even though the ratepayers’ fund had a surplus. Two months later, the city took $1.67 million from the trash ratepayer’s fund to bolster a city fund.'

Continuation of copy: 'There are a number of ways landfills have the potential to harm the environment. The No. 1 way is through methane gas and carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to the destruction of the ozone layer, according to Mike Bush, the program manager of the Fort Hood Recycling Center. The more holes dug for waste to go into, the more negatively that can affect groundwater.' End of copy.

This article says nothing about 'what is to be included, IE: equipment, labor, type of service, and equivalent rates, that 'there is no guarantee as to curbside collection.

This newspaper points out what a glaring mistake in 'moving money, $1.67 million dollars', to 'bolster a city fund'. That to me bordered on a criminal act, one in which this former chief of police, to admin city manager, to now an assistant city manager was involved in an took part in. In my opinion, this city council does not have the authority 'to move money at it's discretion from one place to another outside the realm to which it was originally collected for'.

And the final point I would address, Yes,I agree, Me1 and Me2 gas is and are a detriment to the atmosphere, but other land fills are collecting from these fields and using the captured gas to power turbines which are used for electric power. Some thought along these lines could be given.

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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