Councilman Costello Pushing Ballot Question I, Hoping to Reduce Property Taxes Through Audits

| November 7, 2016 | 0 Comments

11745343_675027665960997_307974212348923212_nDistrict 11 Councilman Eric Costello, whose district encompasses the South Baltimore peninsula, is asking voters to support Ballot Question I tomorrow at the polls. Councilman Costello is also running unopposed in the election for his council seat after winning the Democratic primary in April.

Question I is proposing audit reform of the city government. The reform required an amendment of the City Charter and has already received approval by the City Council and Mayor. Councilman Costello was an auditor with the U.S. Government Accountability Office before his appointment to the City Council in 2014.

“For the past year and a half, I have worked with the Mayor, City Council, and Comptroller to reform what was known as Quadrennial Audits, a deeply flawed auditing approach that had been watered down through the political process. The new proposed auditing process ensures that the Administration and City agencies are held accountable to the taxpayers,” states Councilman Costello on his website.

Councilman Costello is hoping the savings found in audits will lead to property tax reductions and improve the quality of city services. Baltimore currently has the highest property tax rate in the state at $2.248 for every $100 of assessed property value.

The bill would accomplish the following according to Councilman Costello:

  1. Transfer responsibility from the Director of Finance to the Department of Audits (City Auditor) so there is no longer a conflict of interest.
  2. Increase the frequency of both performance and financial audits from four years to every two years.
  3. Provide for staggered audits, half of the agencies audited in odd calendar years, the other half in even years.
  4. Add three critical agencies to be audited: Department of Health, Mayor’s Office of Employment Development, and Mayor’s Office of Human Services.
  5. Provide funding through the Comptroller’s annual budget request, based on negotiated agreement between the Administration and the Comptroller’s Office.
  6. Ensure the audits are completed by the City’s Department of Audits, not by outsourced consultants.
  7. Publish audit reports on a website.
  8. Require City Auditor to report on status of Recommendations for Executive Action from immediate past audit for each agency.
  9. Establish the Biennial Audits Oversight Commission (BAOC). The BAOC controlled by City Council, comprises of City Council President, three City Council Members, Comptroller, Director of Finance, and Inspector General, they will meet in public at least two times per year, meetings will be publicly advertised. The BAOC will provide input and guidance to City Auditor on scope of performance audits.
  10. Reporting by the City Auditor to the BAOC on the status of all audits and a public discussion of agency corrective actions to address Recommendations for Executive Action.
  11. Take effect in January 2017.
  12. Most importantly, these measures will not increase taxpayer costs for what the City is currently paying to conduct these audits.

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