Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Lucas County Budget - after clarification the spin is evident

As I posted yesterday, there appears to be a discrepancy in the news reports and the actual figures for the 2007 and 2008 Lucas County budgets. I've received clarification from the County's Office of Management and Budget and wanted to share it with you.

The original 2007 budget, passed in January last year, was $145,088,795.80. The County Commissioners voted to increase the budget twice - on November 27th and December 18th. That brought the 2007 budget up to $149,884,680.

The revised 2007 budget was a 3.3% increase over the original 2007 budget and a whopping 8% increase over the actual expenditures in 2006.

The good news is that the County only spent $145,143,642.12 in 2007, roughly what they budgeted.

Based upon news reports, I incorrectly said in this post that the County was $5 million over budget in 2007. However, when you consider this Blade article that references "spending" and not "budgeted amounts," it's easy to see the confusion.

The 'spin' put on the 2008 budget is that it's less than what they planned to spend in 2007. But, it's still significantly over the 2007 actual expenditures. And increasing your 2007 budget in November and December (obviously more than what was needed based upon spending up to that point), in order to present a better comparison for the 2008 budget is clearly 'spin.'

Further, saying that the 2008 budget represents a $2 million decrease in spending when it's just a decrease over planned spending isn't really saying much .. especially when the 2008 budget calls for spending about 2% - or $2.76 million - more than it in 2007 and covers a projected deficit by taking $2.7 million out of reserves in order to allow for the additional spending.

And more importantly, this 2008 budget does not include any pay increases that may be negotiated in various contracts this year. That would push the numbers up even higher.

According to The Blade, "The commissioners set an example by trimming their own department's spending by $211,000 from last year." However, from the spreadsheet I received, the Commissioners spent $3,147,157 in 2007 and are budgeted to spend $3,252,206 in 2008. That's not a $211,000 cut - it's a $125,049 increase, if they spend it all.

The numbers below reflect the actual expenditures for the years and the 2008 budget.

2002 - $129,658,527.66

2003 - $131,220,411.32 (1.2% higher than previous year)

2004 - $132,570,059.06 (1.03% higher than previous year)

2005 - $135,329,510.19 (2.08% higher than previous year)

2006 - $138,762,842.16 (2.54% higher than previous year)

2007 - $145,143,642.12 (4.57% higher than previous year)

2008 - $147,861,506.87 (budgeted - is actually 1.9% higher than last year)

So, 2007 spending was 4.57% - nearly $6.4 million - more than in 2006 ... despite the downturn in the economy, the less than expected revenues and the use of about $1 million out of reserves to balance the budget at the end of the year.

It's clearly evident that County government is not getting 'smaller' or 'less expensive' - no matter what the Commissioners say.


Hooda Thunkit said...

"It's clearly evident that County government is not getting 'smaller' or 'less expensive' - no matter what the Commissioners say."

And, as we become fewer and fewer, this trend will continue...

The Beast must be fed.

kateb said...

Geesh. Good thing that you kept after this. No one would have ever known the numbers and the story didn't match up.

I wonder why I don't feel surprised at all right now?

Tim Higgins said...


It must be wonderful to be able to decide that your are going to spend a certain amount of money in a year in January, then realize as the end of the year approaches that you are about to spend more than you budgeted. Then, being the good watchdogs of the "people's money" that you are (and not wanting to go over budget), you decide twice within a 3 week period to increase that number so as not to appear to have exceeded it.

This is the kind of government math that has us reaching for the duct tape to wrap our heads in the hopes of preventing explosion. But life is much easier when the money that you spend belongs to other people.

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