Welcome to my second installment of my discussion on our Budgetary Calamity. This one also focuses on the General Fund. We’ll get to the Water and Sewer and other funds that the village uses as time allows.
After going on this journey with me, you’ll probably come to the same realization that I have … No wonder nobody knows. Not even the people that should know know … just take a look at the budgets – it’s so full of convoluted projections and assumptions that the math doesn’t even add up – and we’re not talking genius level calculus here it’s third grade adding and subtracting. But what response do we get when we ask questions about these documents or practices in our village? All too often, politicians blindly repeat talking points when it comes to justifying cuts to essential services like: “The revenues don’t support the level of staff or service that we have!” They use lame excuses like .. due to the economic downturn, due to forced union contracts, due to unpredictable nature of sales tax .. blah blah blah. How do other towns get themselves within a few thousand dollars of expenditures vs revenues? Here’s one of my favorite lines in our budget document:
While income tax receipts were hit hard by the downturn in the economy, they have made a large upswing during FY 2013. Revenues are projected to come in at $478,500 higher than budgeted dollars. However, state legislators periodically consider legislation that would ultimately reduce the amount of income taxes distributed to local municipalities. These projected revenues are based on projections provided by the Illinois Municipal League in February of 2013 and assume receipts of 12 monthly distributions. In March the IML came out with a statement of concern over their projections based on budget discussions going on at the state level. This issue will be monitored throughout the state’s budget process by staff to maximize our ability to react in a timely fashion to any revenue shortfall caused by decisions made by the State of Illinois. 2013-2014 Adopted Budget, page 6
Let’s examine. According to the budget documents between 2007-2008 and 2013-2014 the actual revenues have been pretty darn stable. But more importantly, the Village Staff is saying that state legislators might change things, which will change the whole budget document, so it’s not their fault if it’s not accurate. Then, they say it’s based on projections by an outside agency (that is also known for it’s political dealings as well, imagine that …) so it’s not their fault cause they didn’t make the numbers, but they will TRY and keep on top of it. And that’s just 2 of the excuses folks for being so far off year after year. Of course, this is the first time those excuses have been actually written into a public budget document. (That I can find)
So without further ado, let’s examine a spreadsheet of the last 7 fiscal years and see what’s actually happened:
|BOARD APPROVED BUDGET|
|Where > 100% = Spent more than approved||Where > 100% means actual more than projected|
So the first thing to notice is that for this year and last we do not have actual data for and is undetermined for the accuracy of Finance Department and Village Manager’s use of budgeted funds, but that in every year we DO have actual data, there hasn’t been a single year in which our Village Staff has been accurate in it’s projections, or use of budgeted funds. (take in mind that when rounding to the whole number and dealing in the millions as we are, that the expenditure vs revenue percentage can be up to $100,000.00 off either way and still achieve 100% which is why anything other than 100% i am considering not accurate) We are either over budget or under budget every year. Why can’t we budget properly? You’ll notice that the 2012-2013 budget’s expenditures vs revenues is the ONLY year in which the difference between them is negligible (as most other towns are.) (And just to clarify – expenditures=bills, revenue=income)
This also proves something else: The “economic recession” that the Village is always talking about having hit hard really only had an effect in one year – the 2009-2010 budget year, in which projections were nearly 3 million dollars higher than actuals and the expenditure approved was 1 million more than actually spent … making for a 2 million dollar deficit that year. And that is precisely why we have a “contingency” amount built into the funds (which we are at 19% or over 4million right now) Otherwise, we’re spending as much today as we were before and during the recession. So – we are gonna hit this one again: While Manager Rooney says “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” the data presented proves that the Macro Economy hasn’t really forced any changes here in the village in terms of the general fund supported operations. (Administration, Streets Department, Police and Fire) For the average person, Macro Economy, or Macroeconomics doesn’t really have a meaning, so here ya go:
In other words – Manager Rooney is using really big words that really have no application to our town … I call that misdirection. (Take in mind – i’m getting ALL this information directly from the budget documents located on the Village of Carpentersville’s website – information that Manager Rooney should have had at least as available to him when he prepared those documents.) I’m convinced that when a Village’s Top Official starts a budget document with excuses and reasons for inaccuracies, that what follows should be viewed as suspect almost immediately. (Kind of like when you realize something is wrong because you looked at one of your kids and they immediately say “I didn’t do it”.) Also, please note that in the streets department, 2.8 million dollars is your garbage payment. So while the operation of the streets department may appear to be between 20-21% of the general fund budget, it’s actually only about 10% of the expenditures. Again – 10% of the income to the general funds is how much you pay for GARBAGE.
Looking at the areas themselves, it appears that in only one of the reported years the police department was over budget. The Fire Department was UNDER budget every single year, The streets department was over budget 3 out of the 5 available years (in all fairness though, that’s one that is hard to anticipate … our streets take a severe beating and maintenance of vehicles can be awfully expensive if it’s been some time without proper maintenance.) and Administration has been over budget (by a lot) once. However, please note that while the police budget has fallen quite a bit, the Administration, Streets and Fire budgets have remained stable and that those 3 departments are almost equal in terms of cost. The most disturbing thing though that I’ve found in the budget document from 2013-2014 (and sporadically in the other documents) is that the numbers don’t add up. The sum of the line items are more than or less than what the total shows – and that’s pretty consistent throughout that document. Add in differences between the charts and the numbers given for the charts, and you have a budget document that, while it looks prettier than previous budgets, certainly doesn’t show the level of skill of our Financial team, lead by the Village Manager. No, seriously, open up the 2013-2014 budget document and start adding numbers up … pretty scary how many are actually off.
Enough of that though, let’s examine something else, the Village Mission Statement:
THE VILLAGE OF CARPENTERSVILLE IS COMMITTED TO PROVIDING TO ITS CITIZENS THE BEST POSSIBLE HEALTH, SAFETY, AND PUBLIC SERVICE TO ALLOW FOR BALANCED GROWTH WITH EFFECTIVE FINANCIAL
MANAGEMENT AND PLANNING
Any well constructed mission statement not only defines why the organization exists, but it also sets priorities. The first items in a mission statement represent a higher priority within that mission than later ideas. Here, we see that the Village Trustees have set a higher priority on providing us the residents with the best possible health, safety and public service, a middle priority to balanced growth and a low priority to effective financial management and planning.
One would think that an organization would budget accordingly to ensure that it could meet it’s mission. In my article where we compared our town to Streamwood – a virtual “tie” in revenues, people, requests for service, etc Streamwood spends 70% of it’s budget on public safety, while this year we hit an all-time low of 55% (while administration remained stable across all years.)In this case, we budget lower than comparable towns for public safety (1st priority), higher than other towns for Community Development (middle priority w/ no results … we lose more business than we bring in) and more money to Administration (3rd priority) than we do the fire department or the streets department. Essentially what the Board approved is the exact opposite of it’s mission statement priorities. Essentially … we’re backwards (see – proof is in the budget – We are Backwards! – everyone always thought i was kidding when i said that.) More importantly though – another budget document inconsistency?
What’s the bottom line with all this? This village spends an incredible amount of money on administrative tasks, and comparatively less money on public safety than towns around us and those of equal size and income. Seeing as how the Trustees have become determined not to follow the priorities it set with the Mission Statement, it becomes necessary for we the residents of Carpentersville to stand up and say – NO! I want police, I want firefighters and paramedics, and I want my roads fixed. Do that BEFORE anything else. If the trustees really believe we are in financial straits – which again, the historical numbers disagree with – and laying off employees is the ONLY way to do this – then by all means go ahead, but make sure Administration is at BARE BONES first. That is my priority as a resident. My family’s safety and security comes first.
Finally we must ask why? Why have you reduced the police department budget? Was it possible to reduce Command positions without removing patrol officers from my neighborhood? Could less clerks do the job (which would be your technology / efficiency enhancements) Why have you reduced the fire department manning in the 2 outer stations – while you haven’t even reduced that budget and yet my service is cut? Why have you raised my water bills and cut the number of people available to ensure the safety of my water? Why have you hired more administrators and given out significant raises to the village hall non-union employees .. oh wait .. i think i just hit the nail on the head. Every cut has been to a unionized department – very interesting I think. And i’m pretty sure the more I dig the more I’ll turn up. It’s seriously time for this village to have a good carpet shaking. See what’s underneath there – or hidden in the fibers.
Until next time!
The Inquisitive Citizens