A Sonoran Truth Editorial, 9.17.14
Terry Zerkle proposed a consulting solution for logical leadership a few years which got turned into sound bytes and then got lost in the ego of counsel. We’re reprinting here to complete our concern that Cave Creek remains rudderless. In the past, it was Usama, Francia and the Town’s “illustrious” council pulling all kinds of stuff, and telling the citizens or counsel little if anything all the time, pretending to be sincere. Worked great for the likes of Sorchych.
Now? Sorchych continues to characterize this as an “us vs. them” argument, all the while incompetent leadership and questionable ethical conduct from prior council and town manager becomes imbedded in black rock- a permanent fixture to remain no matter how hard Adam asks for accountability.
COUNCIL ACTION PLAN
The following is a suggested action plan for restoring operational integrity, fiscal health, and transparency to the business and functioning of town government and to protecting and advancing the town’s future.
Retain a recognized municipal management consultant with demonstrated experience in organizational review and assessment to perform a management review of town operations, structure, practices, policies and procedures with the goal to identify those things which, as a matter of best practice, should be retained and built upon while concurrently identifying opportunities for improvement, efficiency and change, providing the appropriate supporting assessment and documentation, and making recommendations accordingly including an implementation plan.
Contract a nationally recognized independent accounting firm with a highly regarded forensic accounting unit to conduct both a traditional and forensic audit of town finances. Said audits to be made public and include, but not be limited to, a comprehensive review of the adequacy and appropriateness of transactions, documentation and actions leading up to, surrounding, and following purchase and improvements to the water companies and wastewater treatment facilities, loans for same, compliance with loan covenants and restrictions, and the adequacy, completeness and accuracy of the town’s financial statements including an up-to-date assessment and statement of its current financial position. Said audits to provide recommendations as appropriate for corrective actions as well as changes to existing financial policies and practices and to provide the basis for preparation of a multi-year Strategic Financial Management Plan.
Convene a Financial Task Force comprised of a broad cross section of Cave Creek citizens to assist the Council in achieving financial transparency and following up with implementation of the recommendations contained in the audit and the other recommendations which will emanate from completing the financial actions listed below.
Adopt written financial policies to guide budget preparation, execution, administration and recurring financial management decision-making. At a minimum, specific policies will address the following: operations of town government, debt service, capital expenditures, reserves, financial reporting, and financial stability. As a best practice, examples of such written guidelines will include but not be limited to: requiring adherence to a balanced operating budget, engaging in long-term financial planning, maintaining an inventory and assessing the condition of all major capital assets, maintaining revenue diversity, setting and updating fees and charges for services including utilities, discouraging the use of one-time revenue for ongoing expenditures, specifying the appropriates use of debt and identifying the maximum amount of debt that should be outstanding at any time, and maintaining a prudent level of reserves and specifying the amount of those reserves.
Complete a comprehensive enterprise-wide service delivery, resource, cost of operations, and financial assessment (current and projected) of all funds, departments and program activities. Include capital investments with attendant estimated increases in operating costs. Identify challenges/imbalances and strategies for correcting same. Based on that assessment, prepare and adopt an integrated multi-year (3-5 year) Strategic Financial Management Plan noting specific actions to be taken, when and by whom. This plan to be used to guide Council and staff financial and service delivery decision-making on a recurring basis. Update plan annually to reflect changing conditions and priorities.
Prepare, adopt and update annually a multi-year Capital Improvements Plan or Infrastructure Improvements Plan to guide decision-making related to the timing and financing of capital investments. Incorporate financial implications of the CIP into the multi-year Strategic Financial Management Plan.
Immediately engage in on-going oversight and monitoring of town finances including the preparation and dissemination of regular (suggestion is monthly or bi-monthly) written financial condition update reports to the Council and citizens.
Consider using the ICMA Financial Trend Monitoring System tailored to Cave Creek’s specific needs as the tool for monitoring town finances and on-going reporting to Council and citizens.
Reverse the Council action that combined the Water and Wastewater Funds into a single enterprise fund and re-establish these activities as separate and discrete funds for accounting and budgetary purposes.
Wean the town off the unrestrained use of General Fund revenues to subsidize operating and debt service expenses of the Water and Wastewater utilities. This is an extremely flawed, self-defeating municipal financial management practice. Develop and implement a phased-in plan wherein the water and sewer utilities become self-supporting enterprises over time.
Either as part of the Management Review referenced in above or in a separate study, retain a recognized management consultant with expertise in utility operations to conduct a management review of the town’s utilities to assure that sound business and best practices are being employed in the operations, financing, management and long-term planning of those systems. The review to include recommendations for change as appropriate and an implementation plan.
Review, modify/correct as appropriate, publicly vet, and adopt the non-publicly vetted, non-Council adopted April 2008 Water Master Plan. Notify Maricopa County and other governmental agencies that the previous version was never reviewed, adopted or publicly vetted by Council and that there was no Council adopted multi-year Capital Improvements Plan in place for making improvements to the water systems.
Reinstate the Citizens Water Advisory Committee to review and advise the Council on water master planning and major water policy matters and issues confronting the community.
With the aid of the reinstated Citizens Water Advisory Committee, engage in comprehensively identifying, reviewing, analyzing and then providing strategic direction on the multitude of major water policy issues and challenges confronting the community.
Recover, retain and safeguard Cave Creek’s incredibly valuable, finite Central Arizona Project water allocation for use in Cave Creek, not to serve users outside Cave Creek. This was the promise to Cave Creek citizens at the time the town sought voter approval for authorization to get into the water utility business.
Avoid further over-extending precious town water supply resources beyond their capacity to serve Cave Creek, which is already an issue. Plan for and assure long-term water supply sustainability for Cave Creek citizens.
Firm up with sustainable resources the known long-term town water resource deficit, which currently stands at approximately 1,000 acre feet.
Resolve the town-owned CAP water transmission line undersize issue from where the line begins at the canal at Deer Valley Road extending up Cave Creek Road to the Cave Creek water treatment plant, a distance of approximately eight miles. Current line, sized at 16”, is insufficiently sized to deliver Cave Creek’s existing full CAP allocation as water demand increases.
Immediately dispense with the flawed practice of staff only approval of certain water and wastewater development agreements. Require Council review and approval of all water and wastewater development agreements entered between the town and private individuals/developers.
Evaluate the efficacy of spinning off town ownership of the Desert Hills Water Company and setting it up as a free-standing water district with its own elected governing board comprised of Desert Hills residents. As part of the transference, set up mechanism for recovering any Cave Creek specific assets, resources and investments if and as appropriate.
Also absolve the town of the obligation and responsibility of servicing the Sabroso Water System. Servicing Sabroso should be a Desert Hills Water Company responsibility and addressed with the spin off of that company from town ownership.
Community Vision and Planning
Affirm and protect low density, large parcel Desert Rural zoning, the integrity of the community’s unique western heritage, its historic town core, and the vision, principles and policies expressed in the adopted, publicly ratified 2005 General Plan.
Carry forward the aforesaid vision and principles in any update of the General Plan.
Prepare an Economic Development Plan specific to Cave Creek to guide the economic growth of the community. Engage the community in its preparation.
Restore the utility undergrounding requirement to the Zoning Ordinance.