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The question may arise, however, why these reforms, if reforms they be, have not been pressed with greater energy. The answer is, that the changes urged depend, with minor exceptions, upon the action of the State Legislature; that they are commonly regarded as political in character; and that I have intentionally and consistently refrained from urging any measure of a political character upon the committees of the General Court. I felt that the best work I could do was to administer the government as I found it, without wasting time in seeking radical organic changes, which the Legislature was not likely to grant at my request, and the advocacy of which was calculated to impair the influence that the Mayor properly possesses with committees of the General Court in respect to legislation affecting the financial interests of the city.1
1 While I have no reason to complain of any partisan action on the part of the legislative committees of the past four years in matters relating to city finances and public improvements, yet my advocacy of a change, really political, or thought to be such, would have had very little weight with a Republican Legislature. The fate of the annual attempt to increase the term of office of the Mayor shows the impossibility of securing this reform from a Republican Legislature, so long as it was regarded by many as a scheme for the benefit of a Democratic administration. Now that the next Mayor is to be a Republican, there is more chance that the measure will pass.
ACCOUNTS AND REPORTS.
ACCOUNTS AND REPORTS.
The current accounts of the city are accurately and intelligently kept by the Collector, Treasurer, and Auditor; and the method of paying out money is well calculated to prevent mistaken, illegal, and fraudulent payments.1 The system is, or rather has been, defective in what might be termed the ledger part of it, that is in respect to capital, improvement, or investment accounts, and in the character of the reports printed for public information.
SECTION 1. Department Reports. The annual reports of the different departments I found to be much fuller than those published by most cities; but they were deficient in financial information. Statistics relating to the total cost or net results of the various public undertakings described in the reports were almost wholly lacking, and when given, generally inaccurate; while the few comparative statements of annual expenditures and receipts were incomplete and misleading.
Taking, for instance, the annual reports of the several departments for the year 1890, we find that the City Architect has nothing to say about the cost of our school-houses and other public buildings except in respect to the payments during that particular year. The Board of Ferry Commissioners present a "statement " of the cost of the department from the purchase of the ferries, which is several hundred thousand dollars out of the way, and a "trial balance" worthy of the most advanced
'The drafts of the several departments, all countersigned by the Auditor, and approved by the Mayor, amounted to 1,652 during the fiscal year 1893-4, and involved the payment of $33,911,179.04. Practically every payment requires the written voucher of the head of a department, of the Auditor, of the Mayor, and of the Treasurer. The City Auditor's books are particularly well kept.
2 Published in two volumes as Document 1 of the year 1891.
› VALEDICTORY ADDRESS.
style of speculative railroad book-keeping. The Trustees of the Public Library furnish a list of the Trustees and Examining Committees for thirty-nine years, as well as much other interesting information, but emit all mention of the millions of dollars in process of expenditure upon the new building on Dartmouth street. The report of the Board of Park Commissioners contains no tables from which the amount expended in any one year, or the total cost of all the separate parks, can be ascertained. The report of the Water Board contains a short and insufficient if not inaccurate statement of the "cost of construction of the water works," but not a figure concerning total expenditures, total receipts, net cost, loans issued, changes in rates, department charges, and other facts necessary to a correct understanding of our water-works finances; nor is there anything to show the operation of the sinking-funds, or the steady increase in the debt. No figures are to be found in the entire two volumes showing the cost of our hospitals, cemeteries, markets, public institutions, school-houses, public grounds, or public buildings.
It may be said of the department reports, as a whole, that they contained little information of the kind described; and that such information as they did contain was always insufficient, generally inaccurate, and sometimes purposely misleading.
SECTION 2. Financial Reports. The annual reports of the City Auditor were also defective. Of the two hundred pages devoted to the payments for the year, a large proportion was occupied by the names of the different contractors, material-men, and teamsters, with the amounts paid to each on each separate job. Such lists were of little
1 See chapter 18, § 5, and Appendix, Tables 27 to 29.
2 Reference is, however, made to the semi-annual report of the Trustees upon the condition of this building. This report — Doc. 9, of 1891 —contains what purports to be a statement of the cost of the building to date, but is not, by reason of omitting all payments, amounting to $91,440.57, made prior to the month of May, 1888. The cost of the land, $203,925.00, was also omitted, and the accounts are otherwise incomplete. See Doc. 186, of the year 1892, for a proper set of estimates and
ACCOUNTS AND REPORTS.
value without still fuller information, and were otherwise out of place in a general account of the financial operations of a great corporation. On the other hand, the few summarized statements of cost, notably those relating to the water-works and ferries, were inaccurate or insufficient, and there was practically nothing in the volume from which the citizens could learn what the city had expended on its various undertakings, what its annual average receipts were, or what had been the comparative cost from year to year of maintaining the different branches of municipal service.
The annual calculation of "ways and means," and the methods ostensibly followed in making up the annual taxlevy and appropriation order, were represented to be the same as before the passage of the tax-limit law of 1885; but if a totally different method had not in fact been used, a deficit would have annually resulted, or an illegal tax-rate, or both.1
The monthly exhibits or reports of the Auditor, Treasurer, and Collector were also deficient in the amount of information furnished; and no statement at all was published of the expenditures for the last month of the fiscal year.2
Then the period covered by the annual reports of the Auditor, Treasurer, Collector, and Sinking-Funds Commissioners was the fiscal year, which began on May 1 and ended on April 30; while the period covered by the annual reports of the other departments was the calendar year, from January 1 to December 31.
SECTION 3. Difficulties of Investigation. This condition of affairs made it impossible for any citizen to secure, without a most laborious investigation, accurate and complete information concerning the original cost
1 The real way in which the appropriation orders have been made up since 1885 is shown in Appendix, Table 6; also in the inaugural addresses or messages accompanying the annual estimates submitted by the various Mayors.
2 The payments during the month of April could only be discovered by subtracting each item in the statement for April 1 from the corresponding item in the Auditor's Annual Report not printed, perhaps, for months of the entire payments for the fiscal year.
of our various public undertakings, the annual cost of the various branches of municipal service, and the probable annual revenues. This information was peculiarly essential to the members of a City Government which was limited by law in the amount of money it could raise by taxation and from loans; and I am inclined to attribute the fact that it was so frequently thought necessary between 1885 and 1891 to borrow money for current expenses to the difficulty of estimating with accuracy the probable expenditures and receipts of the city. That the city can, as a matter of fact, live within its income as limited by the law of 1885 — that is, that it need not borrow money for the current expenses of administration - has been shown by the experience of the last four years; but the expenditures must, of necessity, very nearly equal the income,1 and the departments can only be prevented from exceeding it by means of a sharp monthly watch upon every item of income and expenditure, and by monthly comparisons with the corresponding items for previous years.2
Called to the chief magistracy of the city without previous service in the Government, and believing that the first
1 The current receipts and expenditures during the last three fiscal years have been as follows:
The surplus for 1894-95 will probably be about $100,000.
The receipts include the entire income of the city available for the general appropriations of the year. The expenditures include all unexpended appropriations from revenue for particular purposes, if any such there were at the close of the year. Such items are carried forward on the books of the new year, as credited to these special purposes; all other unexpended balances of appropriations, if any,- that is, all general department balances, are allowed to lapse and figure in the surplus for the year.
2 Blank forms were prepared for this purpose in 1892, and have proved of great assistance in the difficult task of keeping the department expenditures within the income of the city.