Texas team declares NA Town Council `broke'
Says projected revenue unrealistic By Daniel DaCosta
Stabroek News
April 13, 2002

Related Links: Articles on stuff
Letters Menu Archival Menu

A technical team from the city of Huntsville, Texas, USA has called on the New Amsterdam Town Council and the Town Clerk to "take immediate action to bring its financial house into order," noting that "in a nutshell the town of New Amsterdam is broke."

Over the past ten days a three-member team from the US city conducted a series of meetings and reviewed previous reports dating back to 1994 on the township.

The New Amsterdam municipality is in partnership with the city of Huntsville. The objective of the partnership is to improve the operations of local government in New Amsterdam and so enhance the quality of life and economic opportunities.

At the end of their visit the team compiled a "Report and Recommended Work Plan" on management and financial issues, litter control, drainage, job creation, religious organisations, healthy community initiatives, youth and sports, Town Council relationship with citizens and miscellaneous recommendations. "The most critical issue facing the Town Council is the financial and management structure and has been since before the 1993-94 Canadian study," an overview of the report noted. According to the report, the 2002 Budget's projected revenue of $107.6 million was inflated. "The reality is that revenues are closer to $35 to $45 million, the general rate of $24.4 million will not all be collected - in fact only $12-18 million will be," the report stated.

The team said that grants, subventions and donations totalling $22.5 million are inflated and should be closer to $10 million. Expenditure if maintained at current levels will greatly exceed revenues with the payroll projected to reach $35 million or about 70 percent of the anticipated revenue.

Privatised garbage collection recently contracted will cost the town $180,000 per week. The Council has projected revenues for this year at $45 million but its expenses will total $68.8M.

According to the 24-page report "the Council must adopt an austere budget as quickly as possible. Payroll expenses must be trimmed to less than $20 million, revenues must be increased while services must focus on delivery of basic services and the budget brought into proper balance."

Touching on the annual government subvention, the technical team said it should not be used for salaries but for its intended use on streets and drainage. "There is little work being accomplished due to the lack of a management structure and systems," they said while recommending that the Council's staff be cut from its present 110 to 75 employees.

"The Town Council must be committed to serving the citizens of New Amsterdam and not the political parties while citizens must hold the Council accountable to them for their decisions," the team suggested.

The report also called on the Mayor, Council and Town Clerk to come to a clear understanding of who directs staff. "All three now give direction which eliminates accountability and allows workers to avoid working or being responsible for their inaction. The Town Clerk and the Council must also ensure that revenues and expenses are properly accounted for so that no hidden subsidy or excess costs exist," the report said.

The report further recommended that there should be focus on relationships with the Regional Democratic Council and Central Government. "The Town Council must leverage their limited resources to improve the conditions of the town...the Council must search for a common goal with them." Noting that the RDC and Central Government "are of different parties," the team recommended that representatives from the Council must include a majority of PPP/C affiliated persons when meeting and requesting assistance.

A public forum was recently convened by the newly-formed New Amsterdam Action Group (NAAG) at the Town Hall at which some 150 citizens aired their views and concerns about the town. Among those attending the forum were Mayor Neville Johnson, Deputy Mayor Claude Henry and representatives from the National Democratic Institute (NDI), USAID and the team from Huntsville.

A clean-up campaign was organised by the Huntsville team and the New Amsterdam Town Council last Sunday along the main thoroughfares. The exercise, however, received a lukewarm response from the town's 30-odd thousand citizens. Yet the report described the exercise as a success and suggested that the work should continue beyond the team's visit.

The Huntsville team comprised of Bob Hart, City Manager, Glen Isbell, Director of Planning and Development and Danna Welter, Director of Human Resources. The team concluded its visit to New Amsterdam yesterday.