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Manchester paid Conference Center overages without board approval; center to return some money after better than expected sales

The Manchester government inadvertently paid the Manchester Conference Center an additional $58,467.41 in overages without the proper appropriation, according to alderman Joey Hobbs, who serves as chair of the Manchester Finance Committee.

In a letter to city aldermen, Hobbs explained that Mayor Marilyn Howard informed him that the city has spent $408,467.41 in overages on the conference center this fiscal year, which is $58,467.41 over budget. But the $58,000 was never approved by the full board of Mayor and Aldermen nor was it properly requested from the city by the Public Building Authority.

Hobbs explained that the recent change in Finance Director to Anthony Burrows may have increased confusion.

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As everyone is aware, we recently had a change in the Director of Finance position. As a new director, Anthony (Burrows) was unaware that the city only appropriates to the PBA,” Hobbs wrote to the board. “He was operating under the assumption that the PBA/Conference Center was treated the same as the other city departments. As such, he believed that this was a budgetary item that involved money within that particular budget that could be accommodated for by moving line items.”  

Hobbs later wrote that the PBA plans to vote in July to return the money to the city. Hobbs explained to Thunder Radio News that Megan Jackson (PBA member) explained to him that they no longer need the money because of higher than projected revenue.

Full Letter from Alderman Hobbs to Board of Mayor and Aldermen:

   “It was brought to my attention late yesterday afternoon by Mayor Howard that we have an issue with the city appropriations to the PBA/Conference Center, and in order to be fully transparent, I would like to share that information with you. 

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 In the budget, we approved $350,000 in appropriations (Chapter 8 – 5-803 for reference). To date, we have spent $408,467.41. This is an unapproved overage of $58,467.41 This overage issue can be resolved by an amendment.

As everyone is aware, we recently had a change in the Director of Finance position. As a new director, Anthony was unaware that the city only appropriates to the PBA. He was operating under the assumption that the PBA/Conference Center was treated the same as the other city departments. As such, he believed that this was a budgetary item that involved money within that particular budget that could be accommodated for by moving line items.  

After reviewing emails from the Conference Center, there was an email in Feb 2024 in which their finance person had reached out to the Finance Director at that time Lisa Myers in regard to the need for an additional $75,000 in order to finish this budget cycle.

 I did not and have not received from them a copy of the actual request. Charter 8 5-802 states this request shall be in writing, on a form approved by the finance director. This request has not been presented to the Budget / Finance committee to vote on and then pass along to the BOMA. In fact, the only agenda items that I can find from Budget/Finance committee were in reference to the 2024/2025 budget request. 

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 In March, a special called meeting was cancelled because former Director Myers could not attend the meeting. As a result, the same item was placed on the April meeting agenda, and Mrs. French sent me an email that no one from PBA would be able to attend. Once again, the item was removed from agenda. There were no further requests to be on the agenda. 

 I received an email this morning from Megan Jackson stating that at the July PBA meeting she will request the $58,467.41 be paid back to the city by the PBA. If this is approved by the PBA, no action will be required from BOMA.

 To cover all the bases, I spoke with City Attorney Johnson this morning and have learned that this overage would need to be placed on a BOMA agenda and would require two readings as do all budget amendments if the aforementioned request to PBA is not met.

 Lastly, the budget schedule is being delayed because of the on-going audit of 2022/2023. Because this should be completed in July, the budget for 2024/2025 will be voted on in August. I had some questions about how nonprofit items are to be handled for July and August, and I have been advised that (along with the rest of the budget) we will continue to work from the 2023/2024 budget until the next budget is approved.  

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 If you have any questions, please contact the mayor, attorney Johnson or myself.

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