NOBODY knows what a tax audit firm will find during a review of utility franchise fees, taxes, sales taxes and use taxes for the city of Quincy.
Whatever if finds, we're ready to call this an example of good governance by the Quincy City Council.
Last week the City Council hired Azavar Government Solutions to do an audit. The firm makes its money by finding companies, people and other governmental units that either don't pay taxes and fees or where those revenues aren't going to the right place.
If that doesn't sound too exciting, consider this: Azavar negotiated a settlement of $980,000 to the city of Springfield, Ill., when it was found t hat lots of Comcast franchise fees weren't making it into city coffers.
Quincy Treasurer Linda Moore brought the proposal to the Finance Committee, which wisely sent its endorsement on to the full City Council. The first question Moore had to answer was what the audit will cost. She explained that Azavar will retain 45 percent of any new collections or settlements for the first three years after the audit is completed.
"We could find something substantial. We could find zero. The advantage of using them is that it doesn't cost us a penny until they find money," Moore said.
We would quibble a bit. Even if Azavar finds something, it won't really "cost" the city anything because 55 percent of all the new collections will come to the city during those first three years. And 100 percent will keep coming to the city once the system is corrected.
Maybe the city will see its revenues rise a bit.
City officials have repeatedly warned that sales tax revenues are falling as more people buy items online rather than from local stores. Revenues from sales taxes and other funds coming from the state created a $1.8 million hole for city finances in the current budget.
Usually, when government funds fall, tax hikes are among the first options considered.
In this case, Moore found a possible source of revenue that will not hit taxpayers. And it won't cost tax dollars to put into practice.
Every election cycle there are politicians who promise they'll eliminate waste and fraud, and boost efficiency. Hiring this tax audit firm certainly might do just that.
And if nothing is found, or very little is found, we're still prepared to call it a wise choice because government must be open for review.