Building a better BET

City auditing needs enhancementand reformed oversight.

Job-hunting students take note: an $85,000 position for the city of Minneapolis is vacant and in need of immediate filling. Unfortunately, the availability means a provisional lack of checks on wasteful city spending, and it could ultimately boost property taxes and student rents. Robert Bjorklund, the cityâÄôs internal auditor, retired last Friday. The departure of this little-known employee is an unfortunate symbol of the City CouncilâÄôs prevailing attitude toward checks to its power. Bjorklund worked alone to review the internal controls and processes governing the cityâÄôs $1.4 billion in annual expenses. Hennepin County, with a budget of a similar size, employs 11 auditors. The internal auditor is overseen by the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET), the same entity most Council members sought to eliminate until two-thirds of voters rejected the amendment at the polls last week. The council should heed this rejection and instead maximize the efficacy of the BET. First, it should propose another amendment for next yearâÄôs ballot to strengthen, rather than gut, the BET by adding a third elected member to prevent tie votes and increase board independence. The council should also allocate funds to hire additional auditors; a single retirement should never leave a city so large completely without fiscal oversight. While an auditorâÄôs salary adds to expenditures, a good auditor reduces costs well beyond their pay. Voters were right to preserve the BET. University-area Councilman Cam Gordon, a vocal opponent of BET dissolution, should bring this verdict back to his colleagues and lead the charge to improve our cityâÄôs fiscal oversight.