Back in August, Mayor Sam Adams
circulated a proposal at City Hall
to give city council more oversight of capital-project spending at the major city bureaus such as the Bureau of Environmental Services and the Water Bureau.
At the time, Adams proposed bringing about this change via an ordinance, which would have required a city council vote. Although city commissioners get to weigh in on the operating budgets of bureaus outside their domains regularly, historically they haven't been able to do the same with capital project budgets. (One big exception was Adams' decision last February to use sewer dollars to build bio-swales to support the Bike Plan.
This fall, Adams implemented this new capital-spending oversight plan—but not with a city council vote. Through an administrative change at the Office of Management and Finance, which the mayor oversees, bureaus now must submit updates on their capital spending twice a year. Those reports are designed to show the difference between budgeted costs and actual costs for various capital projects. When actual costs come in below budgeted costs, such "variances" become what the mayor called "contract savings" last winter when he advocated using money from sewer rates to "kick-start" the Bike Plan.