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3/11/2009
Staff cuts risk hindering NCCo audits - Councilman Bob Weiner: When we have a $240 million budget, we owe our taxpayers more oversight.

Staff cuts risk hindering NCCo audits

Councilman Bob Weiner: "When we have a $240 million budget, we owe our taxpayers more oversight."

By Jesse Chadderdon
Community News


Wilmington, Del. —
New Castle County's auditor says he will have to scale back scheduled audits after the council eliminated $33,000 budgeted for a part-time assistant auditor he planned to hire later this year.

It's one of several cuts the council announced recently as the government scrutinizes its budget top-to-bottom to counteract its $40 million operating deficit, but some members may be having second thoughts.

Auditor Bob Wasserbach said initially, he planned 13 audits this year to review everything from individual departmental budgets, to insurance costs, cell phone use and police department fine collections.

"I'm going to have to do less," he said.

Counties similar in size and function typically have an audit staff of three or four people, whereas Wasserbach is the county's entire department. He has $12,000 budgeted for outside help, but at $75-$85 per hour, that money won't go far.

Councilman Robert Weiner (R-Chatham), who had some reservations about cutting the position but ultimately voted in favor of it on Feb. 24, said the council might have moved in haste. However, he stopped short of making a motion to reinstate the position.

"It might be penny-wise and dollar-foolish," he said. "When we have a $240 million budget, we owe our taxpayers more oversight."

Wasserbach, whose salary is funded under council's budget but operates autonomously from it, said he did not feel comfortable appealing to have the assistant auditor position reinstated.

"I was hoping they'd consider re-voting, but I didn't think it was in my purview to ask them," he said. "I understand they are in a tough financial situation and have to make cuts."

Meanwhile, Councilman Penrose Hollins (D-Wilmington South) criticized plans to relocate Wasserbach's office from the Government Center in New Castle to the Louis L. Redding City/Council building in Wilmington, among the offices of the 13-council members.

He said the savings don't justify the move.

While it would shave $12,200 from the council budget because of the way computers and furnishings are cataloged, the actual cash savings are negligible.

"I have concerns about the auditor being in this suite [with members of council]," he said. "It's important that the auditor maintain independence. The appearance of influence is of concern."

 

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