Price council reviews providing accounting services for chamber
Price city council agreed to continue performing accounting services for the Carbon County Chamber of Commerce last week.
Shane Baggs, representing the local business organization, told councilmembers that the chamber requested at an earlier date that the city take on the role of accounting for the chamber.
However, as the chamber has become more active, the organization's accounting services have grown.
Councilmember Kathy Hanna-Smith said she had discussed the matter previously and wanted the full council to decide whether to continue the practice.
Hanna-Smith said she felt the chamber and Price have a mutually beneficial relationship and expressed her opinion that providing accounting services was in the best interest of the city.
Councilmember Richard Tatton added that the chamber helps mostly Price businesses or Price residents.
The businesses that directly benefited from the chamber of commerce also pay taxes and business license fees to the city.
The councilmember pointed out that, in his mind, the use of those funds to support the chamber of commerce was justified.
Tatton said he felt the city was acting appropriately in providing accounting services.
Baggs also reminded the council that the chamber and the city had entered into a contract regarding the accounting services.
The contract could be nullified by either party, but would remain in effect for 30 days following any cancellation.
Financial Director Pat Larsen said that the accounting practices offered were fairly minimal, but had increased recently. The financial operations of the chamber itself are limited to a handful of invoices and payroll. Larsen said that those services required time, but that it was not excessive.
However, over the past months, at least one other entity has been running financial operations through the chamber of commerce. The Downtown Alive committee, which hosts a series of business promotions for downtown businesses was operating under the chamber.
The additional invoices and accounting services associated with the chamber have increased, said Larsen. She explained that those services require the time of city employees that otherwise would be working on city finances. Larsen said that the nature of the chamber has led to slightly more work. The chamber itself is a tax exempt organization. However, not all of its services are necessarily under that umbrella, especially when the chamber partners with businesses that will benefit from the chamber's functions. Sorting through what is or is not tax exempt takes the time of city employees, said Larsen.
Councilmember Jeanne McEvoy raised the question of whether the city was setting an unfavorable precedent by providing these services. City Attorney Nick Sampinos explained that as long as the city continued to consider other entities which desired similar services, it could provide or deny services to any entity on a case-by-case basis.
Councilmembers also questioned whether there was any risk associated with offering the services. Sampinos explained that as long as the city operated responsibly and followed generally accepted accounting practices with regard to the chamber's finances, the city was not taking on any significant risk.
Seeing that there was some concern among councilmembers and city staff, Baggs explained that the chamber was in a position to outsource the accounting services to another entity or take over the responsibility itself. However, he said the current relationship was best from his point of view, and he would like to see it continue as currently set up.
The council agreed to continue providing the services and review the matter on an annual basis to insure that the city was not being unduly burdened by the services provided.
Community Director Nick Tatton suggested that the city review the matter before the end of each calendar year. He pointed out that the chamber runs on a fiscal calendar that runs from January to December. If the council reviewed the matter in November, that would provide the necessary 30 days for termination of the contract.
In an unrelated matter, the council discussed the approach it will take with regard to selecting a councilmember to fill a vacancy created when Stephen Denison resigned.
The city will accept applications for potential nominees until Jan. 24. On Feb. 1, the council scheduled a special meeting to select an individual to fill the vacancy through December 2007.
While the council did not formally decide how to choose the candidate, the council agreed that potential nominees will field questions created by councilmembers.
Mayor Joe Piccolo suggested that the council select a moderator to ask questions and that each candidate receive different questions. He pointed out that potential nominees could benefit from the answers of other candidates if each has to answer the same question.
Beyond the question and answer process, the council has not decided on a method for voting. Piccolo suggested a secret ballot where each council member can rank their top three or four candidates, with the first receiving four points, the second receiving two and the third receiving one point. Points could be tallied and a second vote could be called for in the event of a tie.
Sampinos said the state statute regarding the matter is fairly simple and leaves considerable latitude on the selection process. He reminded councilmembers that any member of the council could request a roll call vote and each member would have to indicate how they had voted.
Piccolo reminded councilmembers that they are the electorate body for the city. Candidates can legally contact them collectively or individually and can even lobby their vote.
The council opted to wait to decide the exact process until the number of applicants is determined.