PETERSBURG, Va. WRIC) — The Robert Bobb Group is speaking out about the work they are beginning in the City of Petersburg. The consultant group was hired to help turn the City of Petersburg’s finances around.
Acting Director of Finance and Budget Nelsie Birch says the group knew what they were walking into and are up to the task of improving the city’s financial condition.
“Some of our goals include financial solvency, getting the budget balanced, and making sure the revenues that we have that we are billing are being collected. We want to make sure that we are accounting for that appropriately. We want to ensure that the city’s operations are intact,” Birch explained.
“We want to leave this place in a fabulous position where they are going to have a full-time city manager, a full-time finance director, and we are going to put them in a good position so that they can actually lead and run the government.”
Birch’s work and the work of the other five members of the Robert Bobb Group comes with a $350,000 price tag, plus a $25,000 allowance for lodging and meals.
“Part of the way that this is able to be paid for is there are salary savings in the government right now. There is a vacant city manager position,” Birch explained. “There is a vacant finance director position. There is a vacant public works director position. There is a number of those.”
According to Birch, the consultant fees are covered in the city’s current budget.
“It is the budget that city council approved,” she said. “It has salaries that are already included in there in their General Fund. Any of those salary lapses that we find will generate savings. We will fund revenue opportunities. We will restructure things that will help offset the cost of things.”
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Some Petersburg residents say the contract concerns them, but they understand council has to do what it takes to help the city recover.
“We are going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix the situation that shouldn’t have been created for a city that already isn’t paying its bills doesn’t make any sense to me.”
“We are going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix the situation that shouldn’t have been created for a city that already isn’t paying its bills doesn’t make any sense to me,” Mitchell Shaw told 8News.
“At the end of they somebody needs to held accountable for what went wrong in Petersburg.”
Birch says the group’s door is always open to answer any questions the public may have. She also shared details about her background and experience working in and outside government.
She started her career with one of three major rating agencies, including Fitch Ratings. She started evaluating cities early in her career.
“I worked for the City of Baltimore for the director of finance,” she said. “I covered all aspects from budget to operation, to collections, procurement accounting and then in my last two roles, I was the director of budget for the City of Alexandria.”