There are a lot of hands in the city coffers – and in the current economic climate, those coffers aren’t nearly as flush as they once were.
The Casper City Council wants to make sure that public money is being properly managed. They expect, in return for city funding, a modicum of transparency.
And that doesn’t seem like too much to ask.
The Casper Area Economic Development Alliance, which works to promote new business in town and help existing business succeed, has recieved some $400,000 annually from the city through the Economic Development Joint Powers Board. And that board is in a contract with the city that isn’t scheduled to end until 2025.
And we think that this is a move in the right direction.
Some members of the Council have had issues with CAEDA for some time, largely due to the organization’s opaque budget. Despite insistence by the Council that CAEDA provide a detailed breakdown of how the organization is spending the city money, the board has repeatedly failed to offer reporting that satisfies all the members.
Some council members have expressed that they don’t think that it would be prudent for the city to continue guaranteeing taxpayer money to an organization that can’t give taxpayers a satisfying answer about what exactly the money is being used for. They are also concerned about committing future councils to financial obligations.
While CAEDA is a value to the community, the city shouldn’t guarantee funding to anyone for years to come.
CAEDA can be a boon to the local economy — its plans to capitalize on aerospace dollars for local businesses by leveraging Wyoming’s existing industry seems like a really good bet. So its funding may be well-deserved.
But a lengthy contract like the one the city has with the joint powers board is problematic for future council members and may be problematic for taxpayers.
CAEDA CEO Charles Walsh has complained that the Council is unfairly focusing on CAEDA when the city has long-term contracts with other organizations. And he’s right. The city should be operating under shorter term contracts with every organization that receives public funding.
When it comes to city money, especially in a city so dependent on state funding, every cent matters. Previous councils may have allowed the city to make long-term commitments with city money, but that should not be an excuse to take illogical action.
The Council has an obligation to the public and to future city councils to ensure that they know every group that receives city money is holding up their end of the bargain.
And lengthy contracts make it hard to do that.
We understand that a year-to-year contract can be burdensome and time-consuming for an organization. And it poses the risk of the organization losing that funding every year.
But if CAEDA continues to do good work and deliver on their promises to the city, ongoing funding should not be a problem.