Partnership might solve city problems

Published 12:08am Thursday, September 12, 2013

Natchez must rethink the way in which it handles its money. The recent city audit illustrated just how bad things had become in the Natchez City Clerk’s office when a perfect storm of problems occurred.

The death of a long-time employee who seemed to be the only person with knowledge of how the city’s aging computer system worked may have been the start of the problem.

But things got worse when the city opted to begin using a new financial computer system that apparently was more complicated than originally believed.

The result of these and other long-standing bad practices came to a head with what most accountants would agree was an ugly situation. The city’s audit showed that no back up was kept in the clerk’s office to explain why checks were written, and in a number of cases multiple checks were written to cover the same bill.

It was clearly a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing.

The city has vowed to fix the problem, and city aldermen are working on how they might convert the city clerk’s office from an elected position — a rare bird in the state — to an appointed one, which would theoretically require applicants to have experience in higher level accounting.

It occurs to us, however, that an even better option may exist — merging resources. Has anyone considered whether or not it would make financial sense if the City of Natchez and Adams County simply merged their business services into one office? If not, it makes perfect sense. As small as Natchez-Adams County is, do we need separate payroll offices and separate accounts payable and accounts receivable systems?

Working together in this way doesn’t mean any city and county funds would ever mingle, only the expense of the workers would be shared. It might make good financial sense, but we’ll never know unless the city and county sit down and consider it.