Cortez Finance Director Kathi Moss retires Wednesday after 33 years of service with the city but will continue to work into 2019 on a contractual basis.
The City Council on Tuesday approved a professional services contract up to a maximum of $10,000 for Moss to complete the delayed city budget audits from 2016 and 2017 and oversee the 2018 audit, which is expected to be completed on schedule by June.
In a memo to City Council, City Manager John Dougherty stated he felt it would be best to keep Moss on as a contractor to focus primarily on completing the audits, while incoming Finance Director Ben Burkett can get used to his position and start with a “clean slate.”
He stated the Colorado Department of Local Affairs will not provide Cortez with grants until the city completes those previous audits.
“If it weren’t for playing catch-up, I wouldn’t be putting in this request, but time is of the essence now,” Dougherty wrote.
Moss said the 2016 and 2017 budget audits were delayed because of a financial software transition in mid-2016. During a typical software conversion, she said finance staff would run both software processes side by side to make sure everything matches. But with the switch in 2016, she said staff had limited time and were forced to transition without running side-by-sides.
“We had a very horrible conversion,” she said.
For about six months in 2016, she said finance staff attempted to fix the software issues. Meanwhile, Moss said she was in the middle of the 2015 audit and preparing the 2017 budget. She said her resources were very thin.
Now, Moss said the 2016 audit is in the hands of the auditors in Denver, and she expects it could be complete in a few weeks. Then she will start on the 2017 audit, which she expects to be complete by March. The 2018 audit would run on the normal schedule, Moss said, and could be complete by June.
To accomplish that, Moss said she will probably work 16 to 20 hours per week. She will be paid $48.37 an hour, according to the contract, up to a maximum of $10,000.
Moss said she probably won’t work to June, but will return over the summer to present the 2018 audit to the City Council for one final meeting. She said the contract would allow her to focus on the delayed audits while Burkett meets staff and learns city processes.
“The pressure isn’t on him to complete two audits that he had absolutely no understanding of,” she said.
In her three decades in Cortez, Moss worked under six city managers. Her first city budget was $9 million. The 2019 city budget is $32.87 million.
Among her proudest achievements are paying for the library, police department, service center additions, city park and animal shelter without borrowing. She said Cortez has borrowed money only for infrastructure projects such as water and roads.
Moss also has served on the Colorado Government Finance Officers Association, where she helped bring representation to municipalities on the Western Slope.
On Tuesday, with just one day left before she officially becomes a retiree, Moss said she is looking forward to traveling and spending more time with her family.
“Obviously, it’s really an emotional day for me,” Moss said. “I’m 68, and I’ve spent half my life, almost, here.”
She has plans for a trip to Tacoma, Washington, to see her only grandson, who is now married. Then she would like to take a long road trip across the country and maybe take a trip to Europe after that.
“We really would like to take a trip down through the South, where it takes us — no plans, no anything as long as it takes us – but to really see parts of the United States we’ve not seen,” Moss said.
With a relatively new city manager and a new finance director, Moss said she thinks the prognosis for Cortez is positive. She said Burkett has talent with technology, which she lacks, and plenty of experience with audits.
“I am so excited for him because I envision the opportunities in his job as being different than mine,” Moss said.
She said Cortez will need to wean itself form the large chunk of marijuana tax money it currently receives, as Arizona and New Mexico may soon legalize cannabis. Besides that, Cortez will need to find a way to pay for the fiber-optic Cortez Community Network and the yet-to-be-named community park on the south side of town.
Burkett, a Cortez native who graduated from Montezuma-Cortez High School, will join the city later this month. He lives in Denver and works as a technology business management manager at Hitachi Vantara. He has private-sector experience as an auditor.