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Let’s Look at that Budget! (1 of 2)

budget

I said in a previous post that I would leave budget comments for another time – and that time has arrived.  I’d like first to give a big Thank You to all those folks that are sharing my articles on Facebook.  The more people that get involved in their village the better our village will be!  Now, onto that budget!  (DISCLAIMER – I am not a financial guy, an auditor or anyone else who has real experience with looking at or deciphering budgets.  I am an ordinary (but inquisitive) citizen just like 99.5% of my fellow residents in the Village of Carpentersville, and my views and opinion are just that.)

First, Let’s take a look at page 2, under Budget Process.  Anyone wonder how the village “estimated” the revenue streams for the General Fund and the Water and Sewer Fund?  It seems to me that every year the village claims there will be more expenditures than revenues (see page 4 – shocker, general fund is 392k in the hole and Water And Sewer Fund is $785,457 in the whole.  at $1.1million in the hole, is our village board way over-spending or are they seriously off in their assumptions?)  And yet, every year there is a surplus because someone “messed up” and assumed wrong.  Don’t get me wrong, having a surplus is great, and the departments doing what they can to conserve their budgeted dollars is great too, and it’s everything that a village SHOULD do.  However, when our village staff and elected officials keep giving us the doomsday, apocalyptic, end of the village “we don’t have enough revenues” answer, they really aren’t being honest – or someone just doesn’t know what they are doing.  More to the point – as I’ve already stated on my ABOUT page, I haven’t hidden the fact that I’m an employee, and this is something I actually witnessed – When the Village Manager tells the employees that we are 800,000 in the hole, and the Finance Director says it’s more like 600,000 in the hole, and they both say that they like to be conservative with their numbers – something isn’t right up at Village Hall.   If you look at the budget document, it’s got the words “Assumptions” plastered on the top of it.  I don’t make any assumptions in my budget – I have a computer that tells me how much I’ve made in income over the last few months so that I know what to expect, and I base my budget accordingly.  And when the Village Manager says in his Future Outlook that we can’t compare home budgets to village budgets – I say we can.  It all boils down to how much is coming in and how much is going out.  If i need more, I get another job (village revenue stream), ask for a raise (tax increase) and/or cut some of my budget.  Aside from the complicated jargon, it’s really quite similar.  And it seems that there are other towns that actually do this: check out this link to West Dundee’s Budgets: http://www.wdundee.org/?page=reports.  As you’ll see in their budget, they have made some projections, based upon what has occurred during the previous years.  And shockingly – West Dundee’s budgets come in within a few thousand dollars of revenue and expenditures, not hundreds of thousands or millions.  Isn’t it crazy to see a Village actually project properly and budget accordingly?  WOW!!!!!!!!!!!

Sorry, moving on …  OK, i gotta do this … here is the “Future Outlook” page 11, written by Manager Rooney

In my professional opinion as Village Manager, I must alert you to the fact that, if inflationary 
pressures in the macro economy force changes beyond our control, or if Public Safety UNIONS 
prevail in collective bargaining agreements significantly increase by a decision imposed upon 
the Village by an arbitration award, it will be necessary to increase the tax levy in future years. I 
understand that this is a regrettable circumstance; however, the demands these costs will place 
on the General Fund will necessitate incremental increases in future levies in order to avoid 
large deficits in the General Fund and the depletion of fund balance. The Village may be forced 
to consider radically different options for service delivery if labor costs continue to rise such as 
privatization or contracting out service delivery in much the same manner as many 
communities have for refuse and recycling service.

So let’s examine this EXTREME line of garbage!  (in a mocking voice…) If inflationary pressures in the macro economy force changes … blah blah blah.  This must be said: If a person uses words that are so big that the average person must look them up to decipher their meaning, it indicates that there is some form of compensation OR misdirection going on.  In this case, I believe both.  First, Manager Rooney is a Village Manager, not an Economist or even a Financial Specialist.  An intelligent person could simply have said “we can’t predict how the economy is going to react, but previous years have seen changes that we couldn’t have planned for.”  When that Future Outlook line of garbage is an opening statement, it screams “I have NO idea what I’m talking about – but it sure sounds good!”  If Public Safety UNIONS (notice the capitalization there – this guy isn’t anti-union AT ALL!) prevail?  Let’s go back to my article on The Big Bad Unions.  There it is folks – proof positive that this Village Manager viewed union negotiations as a knock-down, drag-out, bitter, and bloody to the end fight between gladiators.  The whole stupid point behind negotiations is to get something fair and equitable for BOTH sides.  Frankly, if an Arbitrator rules in favor of the union’s position and the Village “loses,” then the Village’s decision to go arbitration in the first place was wrong and we the residents paid for that.  Add to that the fact that the village is already preparing to lose at arbitration – and it seems like the Trustees and Administration have got their head in a place where it doesn’t belong!  Plus, the Village Board authorizing funds to go to arbitration in the first place is not just an extreme waste of tax payer dollars, it’s completely unnecessary.  The fact that the village manager had the audacity to put the possibility of arbitration into the budget document shows exactly how screwed up our village management is!

Page 12: The FY 2014 Village of Carpentersville Budget is streamlined, efficient, and sustainable.  Really? So why are we reducing public safety services to the village mid-budget?  Another Lie in the budget document, or are they lying now when they say they can’t afford public safety services?  I mean hell, they “planned” for arbitration, so i can only assume they planned for losing too.  Oh yeah – the trustees don’t want to talk about that.

**STEPS OFF SOAPBOX**

Enough ranting, time to look at where we can identify some cuts!  Slash and Spend Baby!!!

I’m just going to suffice it to say that i’ll comment where appropriate, but my general thoughts on all these areas are that if we are going to be cutting public safety services, these should have gone first!

50010 – Assistant Village Manager: Yearly cost to the village: 142896.33 (including benefits)  Come on folks .. u telling me that the department heads can’t step up and fill in for the manager when he’s away Training as an Army Reservist?

52125 – Village Newsletter: Yearly cost to the village: 10341.00  A vast majority of the village has internet access (and those that don’t can get it from Comcast at a significantly reduced rate if their kids are on free/reduced lunches) so what’s wrong with email or posting on the website like the village already does?

57100 – Contingency: $100,000.00 ?????? HUH????? Aside from the fact that this is TWICE what last year’s budget was, I have to say WHAT THE FUCK?  If anyone thought I was kidding above when I said the Trustees authorized the Village Manager going to arbitration – guess where that money is coming from – the contingency fund.  Just to make this clear – $100,000.00 pays for a new firefighter or police officer, but the village would rather spend it on arbitration and lawyers.

50010 – Assistant Finance Director: Yearly Cost – 107,683.25 (including benefits)  Again, this department isn’t that big, but certainly has enough employees – why is there a need for a NEW position that pays that well?

51130 – Benefit Fair (do the employees really need or actually go to a fair to explain the benefits again this year that were the same as last year?) flu shots (what’s wrong with their own personal dr for this one?) and wellness screenings – again, what’s wrong with their own personal dr for this one too? Yearly Cost – 13450.00

51150 – UNEMPLOYMENT – now, we can’t get rid of this – but let’s all sit back and realize something, the current law says that when an employer lays off an employee they are responsible for 50% of their yearly salary, which is through unemployment insurance.  When the village lays people off, their unemployment insurance goes up and consequently, we the taxpayers get saddled with the $140,000.00 bill and no workers to show for it – it’s like throwing money down the drain.  Let’s drive this one home: Every resident, right now, take out 4 dollars from your pocket.  Look at it a  second, think of all things u could do with 4 dollars, now, rip that 4 dollars into tiny shreds and throw it in the garbage.  If all 36,000 residents in town do this, they’ve just wasted a little over $140,000.00.

52030 – Legal Fees for Services – (sub category: INVESTIGATIONS, LITIGATIONS, CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS, COMMISSIONS) $275,000.00  Remember that contingency fund.  Well, the village, in it’s infinite wisdom spends money like wildfire on legal fees for negotiations – because they can’t sit down and have a partnership style meeting.  We the taxpayers this year paid $275,000.00 to lawyers to advise the village on how to screw the workers … awesome us!!!  Now seriously, if the village cut this in HALF it would NEED to negotiate in good faith instead of trying strong arm tactics like pitting one union against another 2 days before mediation!  so, lets call this one a savings of 137500.00  (don’t believe me … check out the minutes from september 10th 2013:  http://carpentersville.granicus.com/DocumentViewer.php?file=carpentersville_f01bc0bc289e8be3ab9c9b694520fb55.pdf&view=1 )

IT – we’re just gonna lump this whole thing into one category, because i could write an entire post on the inefficiency and improper setup of the village’s IT network and equipment.  I can immediately identify $23559 worth of cuts.  But, as an example, 13010 for 6 TABLETs?  What tablets are we getting, the most expensive I-Pads (which are more expensive than any other tablets) are 699 each – that’s 4200.00.  13010 for 6 tablets is more than the cost of 6 Panasonic Toughbooks – the MOST expensive laptop out there?  Come on – IT – go back to the drawing board, you’re getting taken advantage of by your supplier.

50010 Assistant Public Works Director – Yearly Cost: $127456.00  When every division within public works has a leader or superintendent, seems to me there isn’t any reason that the Public Works Director needs an assistant to control 5 divisions.  It’s well within the “span of control” that most businesses want for their management.  This position was added by Manager Rooney – and filled by Manager Rooney.  Funny, Director Bob Cole is the last department head left from pre-Manager Rooney days, and now there’s an assistant?  hmmmm **Look the other way, nothing funny going on here!!!**

52156 – Refuse Disposal : Yearly Cost to Us: $2,780,300.00  Yeah, 2.8 million bucks – NO other town in our area does this.  We as residents trade public safety workers for garbage collection.  Awesome us!

Now my Favorite Area to cut: Community Development!!!  (notice under that budget that the Assistant Public Works Director gets 25% of his salary from Community Development – way to hide those numbers!)  What I find interesting is that the Village “downsized” one of the Village Engineer positions, and then hired a guy from Wheeling (the Manager’s former employer) who is an Engineer, as the Assistant Public Works Director who is also listed in the budget as the Assistant Public Works Director/Engineer.  Why downsize a position to create another one with the same qualifications?  Nothing hidden here!  I’m gonna clump these together for ease:

Personnel:  Seems to me, that Police Community Service Officers and Police Officers can write tickets for ordinance violations, so what’s the point of having Code Enforcement officers too?  These need to go before our police or fire.  Add in a CD Support Technician and we have a potential savings of: $360,235 (including benefits)  Other: Overtime?? When other departments can’t have OT, why do these guys get it?  There’s an easy $10,000.  And Code Violation Abatement – really, the village spends $20,000.00 a year fixing code violations for people that don’t fix them themselves?  Well, it’s not worth 20,000.00 to this resident, so either let the violation go or take them to court.  Total CD savings: $390,235

That concludes the “Administration” Side of this residents budget review.  I’ve decided to split this up into 2 posts, because of the overwhelming amount of information.   SO – here it is, our grand totals for potential savings so far are:

Savings Identified (minus Garbage Collection:)  $1,053,120.58 | Savings identified WITH Garbage Collection: $3,833,420.58.  Fellow Residents – this represents about 36 additional, boots on the ground, public safety employees, public works, police and firefighters.  The village CAN afford it, they just chose not to.  Wait a minute – that’s about how many have been laid off or not replaced in the past 4 years .. wow, look at that!  Amazing!

My next post will be cuts that I can identify within our public safety departments.  Stay Tuned for more!!!

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