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At its meeting July 25th, Springfield City Council will consider amending its contract with the Wonders of Wildlife American National Fish and Wildlife Museum. The contract dictates how the museum spends its portion of hotel/motel tax revenue. The city is taking this step after an internal audit showed the contract is not consistent with voter-approved ballot language related to the tax. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark reports.
Part of the revenue from the hotel/motel tax is given to non-profit organizations for capital expenditures. However, a recent audit shows that the city’s contract with the Wonders of Wildlife Museum leaves open the possibility that the money could also be spent on operating expenses, something that’s not allowed under the ballot language. Kristy Bork, Springfield’s Internal Auditor, says the city has to follow the terms voters approved.
“There’s certain language that you put on the ballot, and whatever you says you have to follow. So it doesn’t matter if it’s this issue, the .8 cent, the .25 cent, whatever we put in the ballot we are going to use it for, we have to use that tax money for that purpose.”
The money is supposed to pay for “capital improvements,” including costs related to the museum’s massive renovations that are underway now.
“That would mean anything that is, from like an accounting prospective, that’s things that are tangible. Whether it be building, building improvements, some type of furniture or fixture that is going to be there for the long term.”
In 2009, Springfield City Councilman John Rush suggested Wonders of Wildlife provide council with regular financial reports on a regular basis to show how tax revenues are being spent.
In 09, I said, ‘The public will want to know what their money goes for and it’s too open-ended, so let’s close it.’ It was I who suggested it be spent on education. They said that would be fine. When the internal auditor said it has to be limited to capital, then we said, ‘It looks like the contract is inconsistent. Will you agree to amend the contract?’ And they said yes.”
Rush says the internal auditor was doing her job in calling attention to this issue. He says he’d like to see the city’s internal auditor and the legal council get together in drafting future contracts to avoid having to make these kinds of changes. City Council is expected to take up the contract amendment on July 25.
For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.
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