Tiger Team : Establish a Financial Oversight Board (FOB)
Tiger Team Recommendation of establishing a Financial Oversight Board has been hotly debated by readers
Our work on this Committee has convinced us that there is a need for continued citizen involvement, oversight and leadership in Ridgewood’s financial matters in conjunction with the Village Council and Village management. The first and most important recommendation of our committee is that a permanent Financial Oversight Board (FOB) comprised of citizens be established by March 31, 2013, to facilitate evaluation and/or implementation of recommendation within this report, particularly those related to the 2013 budget process. The committee is aware that the Faulkner Act form of government in Ridgewood gives the Village Manager executive power over each department in the Village. However, we believe that the Village Council cedes too much autonomy to Village management. The Village Manager is the “day to day” CEO. But, the Village Council is the “Board of Directors”, to which the Village Manager is accountable. They are responsible for the funding of all Village operations and are, ultimately, responsible for the budget and Village governance. Unfortunately, the Village Council members do not have the time necessary to develop sufficient expertise in many areas of Village management, particularly with complex financial and budgetary issues. As a result the Village Council often relies on brief summaries and recommendations from the Village Manager to inform their decisions, and may not gain sufficient understanding of the implications of their decisions or what questions to ask. Our sense is that Village management perpetuates this dynamic in some instances. We expect that some Village Council members will learn about some details of the Village’s finances, for the first time, through the information contained in this report. Our opinion is that the Village Council has an obligation to establish clear directives for Village management take a more proactive oversight role.
Thus, the main purpose of the FOB would be to augment the financial expertise of both the Village management and the Village Council. Similar to the Planning Board, the FOB would provide expertise and continuity across election cycles and serve as a valuable resource for the Village Council, particularly for newly elected Council members. FOB members should have significant financial management, budget management,and senior executive commercial or governmental management experience. The important recommendations in this report, as well as , areas identified for further study require that there be a group of citizens to support and audit the work being done by the Village. Because Village taxpayers bear the full burden of the Village and BOE budgets, and the BOE share of property taxes is approximately twice that of the Village share, we hope that the FOB would eventually also provide support and oversight to the BOE. This would also serve to facilitate synergies between the Village and the BOE that do not exist today.