The Budget- Really Put To Bed?
The 2007 budget has been put to bed but the budgeting process is just taking a nap.
This year’s budget which was passed in a special meeting of council calls for expenditures in the amount of $38,534,502.
How is that money being spent? Lakewoodites generally see their city government on a daily basis in two broad categories–public safety and public works. And, those two areas represent the largest expenditures of the General Fund. The police and fire departments along with school guards and housing and building inspection will spend over $18 million this year.
The public works department will spend about $10 million this year with the biggest portions going to parks and public property ($1.6 million) and refuse and recycling ($4.7 million).
Human services can have an important impact on lives in Lakewood. Many of that department’s funds are pass–through in nature: funds which are transferred from other levels of government. But the general fund supplies over $1million.
Operating the municipal court, mayor’s office, and council will cost about $2 million.
Overall expenditures for the city are much greater because they are comprised of enterprise funds, capital project funds, debt service funds, and internal service funds. These activities on the part of the city could be accurately viewed as stand alone business enterprises with carefully controlled rules of income and expenditure. Perhaps the most familiar to us is the water and wastewater system. This is largely a self contained operation with income and expenditures remaining within that department. It’s called an enterprise fund because its operation closely resembles a private business.
Where does all that money come from? The impertinent response would be “from your pocket, of course!” Property taxes provide $7.5 million and income taxes $18 million. Ohio chips in $6.3 million. Licenses, permits and inspections contribute $1.3 million.
That’s a quick overview, the “executive summary” if you will of the budget document. However, it is the budgeting process which will be continual during the remainder of the year. A primary reason for this is that with current trends a structural imbalance will occur. This is agreed on by the administration, council, and the citizens financial advisory committee. To deal with this predicted trend all parties have realized that the budgeting process has to be ongoing. It can’t be done in just one month of hearings. By compressing the process into a short time, tensions between council and the administration increase and discussions can turn toward the political and personal instead of the financial.
It was not only the compressed hearing schedule that has led to pressured decisions but the complexity of financial data reporting.
With that in mind and as a result of requests from council and in cooperation with the citizens committee, Finance Director Jennifer Pae has changed the way the city’s finances are presented and explained. Essentially, the data and documents are much more user friendly. This saves a lot of time which was used in the past for explanations and led to frustration. Mike Summers of the committee has pledged that his group will assist council and the administration as they come to grips with the changes that will inevitably come. This was formalized in a resolution to proceed on budgeting through November.
This way budget making might less resemble sausage making and more approach craftsmanship.