About That $40 Million ...

Our View : Nothing Like Found Money - Aside From Worrying How It Happened

April 17, 2009

News item: Auditors uncover $39.7 million in an obscure city tax collection account that had been left untouched for years. Baltimore finance director says he is embarrassed by the oversight, which is blamed on staff turnover and poor communications.

To: Edward J. Gallagher, director of finance

Fm: Baltimore taxpayers

Re: Some helpful reminders

No offense, but have you checked all the city's collection accounts?

Replaced the batteries in the calculators?

Read every bank statement?

Considered why the bank president keeps sending you thank-you notes on the good stationery?

Moved the decimal point where appropriate?

Have you looked for change behind the seat cushions? What about on the floors of city vehicles? Vending machine and pay phone change returns?

Balanced the checking account lately?

Are you clipping coupons from the Sunday paper? Using them on double coupon days?

Has someone dropped off the night deposits?

Anyone locking the doors at night? Switching off the lights? Turning the thermostat down?

Have you reminded employees to not only collect city taxes but pay attention to where the money goes?

Returned kegs for the deposit?

Have you signed up for overdraft protection?

Paid too much for car insurance?

Opted for the cash-back feature for city credit cards?

Checked your jacket pockets? The other suit, too?

Set the clocks forward for daylight savings?

Instructed the staff on how to spot more of these $40 million windfalls?

Returned the overdue library books?

Switched to caffeinated coffee?

Remembered to check everything twice?

Told staff that "Oops," not an acceptable explanation?

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