« ПретходнаНастави »
intervene, and a bill was passed to create a commission to devise and install a new system of accounting. It was vetoed by Mayor McCLELLAN. Meantime, the Comptrollers, first, MR. METZ, and then, the present Comptroller, MR. PRENDERGAST, with authority under the charter to prescribe book-keeping methods, but no authority to enforce them, and with a multiplicity of general duties and responsibilities struggled with a problem which, had they possessed unlimited power, would have absorbed their undivided attention throughout their terms. A good illustration of the difficulties under which the Comptroller has labored is found in the assistance of a staff of expert accountants provided by an appropriation of $50,000 in last year's budget. In October 1911, the Civil Service Commission was called upon to certify a list. None existed. In May of the present year the Commission held a competitive examination for the purpose of securing a list of eligibles but up to July, 1912, no list had been certified to the Comptroller.
January 1, 1912, four years after the first call upon the outside departments for monthly statements to the Department of Finance of the conditions of their ledger accounts, only about 30 of the 114 departments, bureaus, courts and county offices were regularly furnishing statements. The Department of Education and the Public Service Commission, upon the claim. that they were independent corporations, steadily declined to submit reports. About thirty others, where the machinery had been installed, were from one to eighteen months in arrears. It was not until the beginning of the present year that a systematic effort was made, under the present Division of Expert Accounting, to introduce simplified forms in the forty or fifty smaller offices, and bureaus not previously called upon for reports. At the same time, it was necessary to undertake the work of formulating and introducing expense accounts, never before kept in any department, and the entire series of ledgers and subsidiary ledgers contemplated by the Manual to provide the general records necessary to show the financial position of the city from day to day, as well as to furnish the data necessary for the presentation of a complete balance sheet, with capital and proprietary, as well as income and expense accounts. Very early in Comptroller PRENDERGAST's administration, it was decided that the books of the city were in such confusion that little could be accomplished until the balances were verified and adjusted. Practically nothing was in agreement between the outside departments and the central Department of Finance. The former had kept their accounts on a voucher basis, the Department of Finance on a warrant-drawn basis and the Chamberlain on a warrant-paid basis. There were thousands of open accounts running back half a century. The efforts of the Comptroller's available force, thereupon, were concentrated upon the work of reconciling unexpended balances and contract liabilities of outside departments with the Department of Finance. Until July 1, 1911 this work progressed in a desultory way, but thereafter, under the direction of the Division of Expert Accounting, organized by Comptroller PRENDERG AST, it was rapidly pushed to completion. Current balances for approximately 6,000 open accounts, covering expenditures from a few hundred to $60,000,000 were established, with a result that $9,534,905 was transferred that year to the General Fund for the Reduction of Taxation. The work of reconciliation was extended to unexpended and unencumbered special revenue bond funds, to authorized but unissued bonds of the same class, and corporate stock funds, and must eventually cover every class of the city's fund accounts. The disposition of these various unnecessary balances involved a series of measures to straighten out the books ; the transfer of balances to other funds, rescindment of authorizations, etc. Almost incredible facts illustrating the depths of confusion into which the city's accounts had fallen, were revealed. Bills for which special revenue bond issues had been authorized bad been paid from balances of other funds without their issue. An “old book fund” started under Comptroller Hawks, in 1857, which apparently showed a debit balance of $300,000, upon investigation showed a credit of $3,500,000. The old TwEED Court House building fund showed a deficit on the books of $700,000.
Control over the expenditure of the city's money, now annually exceeding the enormous sum of $350,000,000, of which $180,000,000, for operation alone, has made great progress since 1909, through the perfection of the Budget. There is no doubt that the loose and unsystematic manner in which this basic instrument for determining and controlling the city's operating expenses was prepared in former years was responsible for much of the spoliation from which it suffered. Specific destination for every dollar appropriated, with safeguards to prevent diversion, constituted the remedy.
The introduction of a system of code-numbered, functionalized, appropriations in the Budget, first broached in 1906, has now reached a very advanced stage. The first mild attempt was made in 1908 to show functional segregation of appropriations. Since then, through a charter amendment recommended by the Comptroller creating the Bureau of Municipal Investigation and Statistics, to which the task of preparing information for Budget-making was assigned, and with the assistance of the Bureau of Municipal Research, the development has been continuous. In 1909, the pay of the city's employees, who now receive in the neighborhood of $90,000,000 annually, was scheduled, and, in the following year, there was a beginning of the extension of the same system of specific appropriations to the purchase of supplies, which cost the city about $22,000,000 a year.
Experience has enabled the introduction of a series of safeguarding restrictions each subsequent year. The effect of the segregation of salary and wage appropriations by months has been impressive from the beginning. The methods by which pay roll funds had been diverted were revealed and checked. Surplus funds, hitherto employed at the end of the year to reward favorites or increase salaries, which became permanent, were turned back into the treasury. Salary and wage increases, which averaged from $4,000,000 to $5,000,000 three years previously, were reduced to an average of $2,662,744 for the last three years, disregarding, however, $3,850,000 mandatory increase due to the Teachers Equalization Pay Bill. In 1909, with only partial segregation, there was returned to the General Fund, for the reduction of taxation, unexpended salaries and wages amounting to $1,081,748 against $314,760 the previous year; in 1910, the amount returned was $1,958,730; in 1911 $1,391,185. The Board of Estimate and Apportionment in 1911 was able to make a general cut in appropriations for wages and salaries, reaching in some instances as high as 10 per cent. The Bureau of Municipal Investigation and Statistics calls attention to one borough, which, with a large increase in population, now has an appropriation Budget several hundred thousand dollars less than five years ago.
A Corporate Stock Budget, with similar segregation of items, was inaugurated. It had been previously the practice of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment to authorize the issue of corporate stock for various purposes at irregular intervals throughout the year, upon the request of the various departments,-a vicious system, both from the standpoint of central control and of the sale of the city's securities. A regular segregated Corporate Stock Budget is now prepared by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, in the same way that the Appropriation Budget is prepared, based upon the corporate stock requirements of the departments for the year. The School Building Fund of $60,000,000, instead of being replenished " as formerly, now provides specific sums for sites and buildings. Similar investigations covering demands for special revenue and assessment bonds are contemplated to secure more intelligent consideration of the necessity for such issues. Other reforms have naturally followed in the wake of this scientific budget making. Such anomalies as paying dock operations out of the proceeds of corporate stock sales have ceased. All plans and specifications for contracts payable out of corporate stock, now require the approbation of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, upon recommendation by the Comptroller, supported by the report of a corps of independent engineers attached to the Bureau of Municipal Investigation and Statistics. This has stopped effectually the old practice by which heads of departments, on their own authority, committed the city to vast expenditures. A standard form of contracts for the purchase of supplies has also been introduced to stop wastefulness.
The plan for the Budget of 1913, now in hand, is expected to complete the system of control developed in former budgets. It is designed to show the total expenditures for salaries and wages with the proportions payable from the tax levy, corporate stock authorizations and special trust funds; to apply the same distribution to the purchase of supplies and to group the departmental expenditures by functions, thus making it impossible for any department to appear to effect economies in tax levy expenditures, while increasing them from other funds. A closer connection will also be established between the corporate stock, appropriation and miscellaneous budgets. The bureau expresses the hope that the budget of 1913, will show in full detail the cost of running the city by departments and by functions.
It may not be inappropriate to call attention to the complaints of the Comptroller to the effect that the ends sought by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, in carrying out the principles now governing the budget, are sometimes defeated by the action of the Legislature, which, by mandatory legislation, adds heavy burdens to the Budget. Laws are enacted enabling county officials to increase salaries, without regard to budget schedules, and, an instance is cited, where, last February, one county official raised the salary of thirtyone employees, one getting an increase of $1,700, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment being helpless to interfere with these increases.
Apart from the control over expenditures obtained through the budget, more effective control of the amounts authorized to be spent, is now obtained through the office of the Auditor of Disbursements. This is true not only of budgetary appropriations for the expense of administration, but also of expenditures from corporate stock, special and trust funds. As a result, it is no longer possible for any department to exceed its appropriation and have its expenditures passed for payment.
The main revenue of the city is derived from collection of taxes, which for the year 1911 amounted approximately to $142,000,000. Great improvements have been made in the matter of collections during the present administration. The system of “prebilling” tax receipts, devised by the Bureau of Municipal Research and introduced by Comptroller PRENDERGAST, has not only greatly benefited the methods in the bureau of collection, but to an equal extent has benefited the public. In the bureau it has greatly increased efficiency and the taxpayers, promptly notified, have been enabled to pay their taxes with greater facility. Effective control has been obtained over this source of revenue and it may be safely asserted that the control of the Department of Finance over the revenue derived from taxation is now complete, verification of the correctness of the unpaid taxes being, henceforth, at once obtainable.
With regard to the other revenues of the city, which exceed $60,000,000, the situation is far from satisfactory. It was only when Comptroller PRENDERGAST began the re-organization of the Department of Finance, immediately after his advent to office, that the office of Auditor of Receipts was organized, although the titular position had been created several years previous. Since then better control has been effected. But there remain sources of revenue real control over which is not yet centered in the Department of Finance; notably revenues from Water Rates, Dock and Slip Rents, Municipal Ferry Fares, Bridge Tolls and Rents from Property. Control over the first four sources of revenue mentioned is centered in the departments collecting such revenues. Reports are made regularly by these departments to the Department of Finance, and such reports form the basis of entries upon the books of the latter department. In order to bring all the revenues of the city under central control there should be one central bureau for the collection of all city revenue. This was strongly urged by Comptroller PRENDERGAST at the charter revision hearings before the committees of the Senate and Assembly last year. He pointed out then how unbusinesslike it was to have different departments, including his own, collecting city revenue.
With a central bureau the functional control of the various officials would be defined and complete. Payments of revenues would be made direct to the Chamberlain, the Comptroller would exercise the power of audit over the work of the bureau and the work of the Commissioner of Accounts would complete the final check upon everything done.
The present Comptroller, in his capacity as a member of the Sinking Fund Commission, has recommended the policy of requiring competing bids for leases of dock property. There has been no sale of leases of waterfront properties in the City of New York for fourteen years, except for dumping board privileges yet within that time New York bas become the largest sea port in the world and the value of the waterfront has increased very greatly. This property represents an investment by the city of over $115,000,000 and now produces an income of about $5,000,000 which is less than 70 per cent. of the interest charge. The Dock Commissioner has demurred to the Comptroller's recommendation and has obtained some support from the commercial bodies of the city on the ground that competitive bidding would lead to speculation in dock property which might seriously interfere with the legitimate uses and public conveniences for which it is designed. Whatever virtue there may be in these objections the values of pier privileges should be determined by competitive bidding or otherwise. The Commissioners of the Sinking Fund then would have to assume the responsibility of deciding whether the interests of the city would be subserved by refusing to let to the highest bidder. The practice of permitting sub-leases should be absolutely stopped. Flagrant abuses as a result of sub-leases are known to exist. One navigation company which secured the lease of a pier 675 feet long, which cost the city over $2,000,000, for a rental of $36,000, sublet a portion of the pier for more than it paid in rental to the city.
Another company secured a lease and sold it, while still another small company, with a pier privilege, was absorbed by another under circumstances which raised the suspicion that it was only organized for the purpose of securing the pier privilege. The unexpired terms of three leases made in 1901 for $4,650 were sold in bankruptcy for $53,000 in 1909.
Since January 1, 1912, other departments granting leases, or