Minneapolis looks to trim internal watchdog dept.

The city’s audit department faces a 41 percent budget cut.

Nick Sudheimer

Only two years after its creation, the city of MinneapolisâÄô Internal Audit Department could be slashed in the proposed 2012 budget.

It was hailed by city officials as a responsible creation in 2009, but the Minneapolis City Council is considering cutting the department almost in half to generate $130,000 in savings. One of the departmentâÄôs three auditor positions would be eliminated.

The Internal Audit Department is an internal watchdog of the cityâÄôs finances. The department evaluates the integrity of financial records and reports, evaluates city departments for risks of fraud and maximizes efficiency within city departments.

In a mid-November letter to Mayor R.T. Rybak and fellow audit committee members, Committee Vice Chairwoman Stephanie Woodruff requested that the department receive the same funds it did in 2011.

âÄúI believe this reduction would open the city to more risks and potentially create obstacles which could negatively impact audit results and future plans,âÄù she wrote.

The city would contract with external auditors more often to make up for the loss.

The potential cut will be discussed in the Ways and Means Budget Committee Monday, and the cityâÄôs budget will be finalized Dec. 14.

Minneapolis Councilwoman Elizabeth Glidden said that although the department brings âÄútremendous valueâÄù to the city, a tight budget has left the council with few options.

âÄúIâÄôm so glad we have this audit function, but this is a very challenging year for the budget because virtually every single department has already received very deep cuts,âÄù Glidden said.

RybakâÄôs proposed 2012 budget doesnâÄôt include a property tax increase âÄî the first time in nearly a decade that the city hasnâÄôt implemented a tax levy.

âÄúThe only solutions available to us because of the zero percent tax levy budget is that we are going to be taking further money from somewhere else,âÄù Glidden said.

âÄúThe cuts this year reflect how deeply weâÄôve had to cut everywhere,âÄù Rybak said.

Councilwoman Betsy Hodges, chairwoman of the councilâÄôs budget committee, said even though she isnâÄôt thrilled about the cuts, the department will still have two auditors âÄî double what the city had before the department was created.

âÄúI know that folks have a concern that if the audit [department] gets cut âĦ that that is a signal for bad behavior to run rampant in the city,âÄù Hodges said. Just one auditor worked for the city for many years before two more were hired in 2009, she explained.

Internal Auditor Magdy Mossaad said it is difficult to quantify in dollars how much the audit department has saved the city, but they have found many areas where the city could improve and be more efficient.

The department hasnâÄôt found any instances of fraud, Mossaad said.

Hodges said the department might have a better shot at escaping the proposed cut if it could quantify the savings generated since 2009.

While City Council members will have an opportunity to amend the 2012 budget before itâÄôs officially accepted on Dec. 14, the chances of the audit department avoiding cuts are slim, Hodges said.

âÄúWould I prefer to have three auditors? Yes, but if the resources donâÄôt allow for it then we have to do the best we can with what weâÄôve got.âÄù

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The midwifery health care model views childbirth as a natural process and tries to reduce or eliminate interventions like giving mothers epidurals to numb them during labor, Forster Page said.

Women at Fairview have to sign a âÄúwater birth agreement.âÄù The procedure is not safe if the patient has a fever, heavy bleeding or requires narcotics.

In the Twin Cities water birth scene, Woodwinds Heath Campus has a decade of experience.

Within a year of the hospitalâÄôs opening in 2000, it began offering the option, said Jeanette Schwartz, the clinical leader of maternity care at Woodwinds. Since then, none of the patients or babies has gotten an infection as a result of being in the water, she said.

Now, a staff of eight doctors and 19 midwives facilitates more than 25 births a month.

World-wide research suggests no increased medical risk for water birth. In fact, it shows that women who give birth in water may use less pain medication, are in labor for shorter periods of time and undergo less severe vaginal tearing.