Public papers not so public in Verona
Share with others:
Verona residents voiced concerns over the transparency of the borough's finances and the 2013 budget during Tuesday night's meeting.
The $1.3 million spending plan for 2013 holds the property tax rate at 8 mills, but some residents and council members say that for years they have been asking for detailed lists of bills, treasurer's reports and budgets, among other public documents, to no avail.
A reporter last week requested copies of the 2011, 2012 and 2013 budgets from the borough manager. Manager Bonnie Conway cited printer problems and was able to fax a copy of only the 2013 budget.
Budgets from 2008 through 2012 were provided to a reporter by Councilwoman Rhoda Gemellas-Worf.
Borough resident Nancy Carpenter asked why a copy of the treasurer's report wasn't provided during Tuesday meeting, although council had promised that report would be available at future meetings.
"I forgot," Ms. Conway said. "I'm sorry."
Ms. Gemellas-Worf, who has been on council for three years, said she has visited other municipalities and observed how they handle their records.
"We're just not getting details," Ms. Gemellas-Worf said. "I personally feel, because we're handling taxpayer money, we need accuracy and efficiency.
"The public has a right to know that their money is being well-spent."
Last year, the borough contracted with Sarp & Co. to upgrade the borough's computer system, but Ms. Gemellas-Worf and residents say little has changed.
Solicitor Craig Alexander said that while those concerns are valid, he doesn't believe borough officials are doing anything illegal.
"Legally, I can't state that they're doing anything that's non-transparent," he said. "Could things be done differently? Absolutely."
Council plans to meet with a consultant to upgrade the borough's computer systems and accounting practices to ensure financial documents are easily accessible by residents and council members alike.
"We have to come to some conclusion with this," Ms. Gemellas-Worf said Tuesday.
Mr. Alexander said the borough's technological equipment is "antiquated" and bringing in a consultant to revamp the borough's computing and accounting would be helpful. Other municipalities, he said, have full financial departments. In Verona, Ms. Conway "wears two hats" as manager and treasurer.
"They're simply discussing giving one of those hats to someone else," Mr. Alexander said of the consultant.
First Published January 10, 2013 4:59 am