$937,091? Pfffft. No Big Whoop.

Every year here in the ‘Ridge, we play a little game I like to call, “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Money, Mo’ Money!” Around late spring/early summer, the school administration and BOE round up some folks with pitchforks and torches and march down to city hall. They demand that the city give them mo’ money than the city has to give. Typically (though thank goodness not this past year), city council concedes because the super and assistant super threaten to fire teachers if they don’t. Then, a few months later the schools quietly announce that, guess what, “We found mo’ money.”

Now, this new found money doesn’t necessarily require an explanation since it is not coming from the city. It does, however, require that the schools submit it to council who must, in turn, approve their budget adjustment. Sometimes, they have to do this multiple times in one year. Sometimes, it’s only a few hundred thousand dollars. Other times, it’s a few million. Regardless of the amount or the source, it is usually done with much less fanfare than when the schools are demanding mo’ money of the city at budget time.

At the moment, we are about 4 months away from the next budget shakedown. And, as one might expect, the schools just found some mo’ money. According to this agenda, “This is a $937,091 increase over the General Purpose School Fund appropriation of $56,575,222 adopted by City Council in budget ordinance amendment number 11-11 on July 25, 2011.”

Right now, I bet I can guess what you are thinking. “Wow! That’s almost like a million dollars! Who has that kind of luck?” But hang on a minute; it’s not as big of a deal as you think.

At last night’s regular city council meeting, the schools presented their request for approval of this increase in their already-finalized budget. Because this happens every year, the schools did not send a representative to explain the request to council. They assumed it would go through without question. This was all just a matter of formality. As you can clearly read in their justification, the explanation is quite simple. This new money is “an accounting entry” adjustment. A $937,091 accounting entry adjustment.

Fortunately, this time city council didn’t pull out the rubber stamp. Maybe they wanted a clearer understanding of where this new money came from. Maybe they realized that the taxpayers deserve an explanation. Maybe they remembered that the schools still owed them 7 months of past-due high school mortgage payments. Or maybe they thought about the $1million the school is currently asking of the city  to repair Woodland Elementary School.

Whatever their reasons, I thank them.

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One thought on “$937,091? Pfffft. No Big Whoop.

  1. This budget change was mysterious. The memo from the schools said that it is due mainly to accounting for “the technology capital lease” in the current fiscal year, but it turned out that nobody on Council, nor city staff, knew what lease was being referred to. I’ve seen capital leases handled as revenue in the past — it doesn’t seem logical, but it’s apparently “the way it’s done”, so I can accept that part. What I don’t know is what technology is being leased that costs over $700,000 and wasn’t anticipated when they submitted last spring’s budget request — the same request in which the board asked for $500,000 for technology and didn’t get it. The request also reflects more than $100,000 of transfers from the reserve fund to add to the general fund — again, a rather large change from last spring’s budget request.

    I was astonished when we deferred action completely. This is one of those things that takes two readings to pass, so I was fully expecting someone to say the usual “Let’s vote on this now and we’ll get our questions answered before the second reading.” It’s good to see my fellow Council members refusing to vote for something until they’ve received a satisfactory explanation of it.

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