So how to attack this question? Let’s do some comparing. For the purposes of this, I compare 2 relatively similar towns. Streamwood, IL and Carpentersville, IL. Both towns have similar demographics, both have similar departments, census amounts, and their police and fire departments respond to similar number of incidents per year. They definitely have a few differences as their boards have chosen different revenue sources, tax rates, etc. Obviously, these budgets are quite complicated, so for the purpose of simplicity, I will examine only the General Funds – as that is what is used to pay for the main operating departments within these Villages. So … first let’s look at this from a comparison of department by department in the General Fund – and consequently who wins in the spending “war”:
Police Department: Streamwood- $8,850,859 | Carpentersville- $8,599,738 | Winner=Streamwood
Fire Department: Streamwood – $6,186,095 | Carpentersville – $5,039,108 | Winner=Streamwood
Public Works: Streamwood – $2,679,996 | Carpentersville – $5,981,508 | Winner=Carpentersville
Community Development: Streamwood – $1,018,259 | Carpentersville – $1,306,934 | Winner=Carpentersville
Administration: Streamwood – $2,709,844 | Carpentersville – $3,625,032 | Winner=Carpentersville
Total General Funds: Streamwood – $21,445,053 | Carpentersville – $24,552,320 | Winner=Carpentersville
Since the towns do have different general fund amounts – let’s look at them in terms of percentage of the general fund:
Police Department: Streamwood – 41% |Carpentersville – 35%
Fire Department: Streamwood – 29% | Carpentersville – 20%
Public Works – Streamwood doesn’t add in 2.8Mil for garbage (the residents pay for their own garbage, so in the interest of being fair, we are removing that from the General Fund for the purposes of this comparison): Streamwood – 12.5% | Carpentersville – 12.8%
Community Development: Streamwood – 5% | Carpentersville – 5%
Administration: Streamwood – 12.6% | Carpentersville -15%
Since I like looking at numbers differently – here’s a different spin on it: Streamwood Spends 70% of their budget on Police and Fire Services and we spend a measly 55%. Streamwood spends 18% of their budget on Administration and we spend 20%.
But looking at the dollar amounts too – WOW! Streamwood spends $1,398,108 more on Public Safety Services and $1,203,863 LESS on Administration Services than the Village of Carpentersville. And their General Fund is $3,107,267 Less than ours. I wonder if our priorities are a little off????? Oh Wait, I forgot, our residents NEED to have the 2.8 million dollars in garbage collection rolled up in their taxes because of the great benefit come tax return time. If what the board says about that is true – than people are more worried about having their garbage picked up “for free” than making sure there’s an ambulance, fire engine or police officer available in an emergency. Folks – A comparable town near us spends less money, has more creative revenue streams AND prioritizes Police and Fire as more important than Administration. I think we can all learn a lesson from this!
I’m also curious how Streamwood has an award for their budget presentation by the Government Finance Officer’s Association … and we don’t. Maybe it’s because our budget and extreme “guessing” games just don’t measure up to the standards. If you read the 2 budgets side by side, the differences in both readability, methodology AND understanding of the contents are extremely different!
In addition to that, a thorough perusal of the Village of Carpentersville’s budget identifies some areas in which cuts are appropriate (Remember, More with Less is the politician’s mess!) However, I leave that for a different time. Enjoy and remember – research everything you can and become as informed as possible!