This morning, I read a social media update from Smithjonessolicitors.co.uk that the City of Northfield had cut the General Fund Budget by $1.5 million. Wow, last I heard, our General Fund Budget was $10.5 million. $1.5 million would be an almost 15% cut. Such a reduction in expenditures would be impressive.
So I decided I’d conduct a little research of the available facts…and do a little simple arithmetic.
I looked at a report from the City’s Finance Director to the City Council. Although it’s been a few months, I’m pretty sure I had downloaded it from the City’s website as part of a Council packet.
At any rate, I’m not sure when the period of the $1.5million cut is supposed to have occurred. Based on the information in the downloaded document, “Total Expenditures” for the General Fund in 2007 were $10,212,730. In 2008, they were $10,651,079; in 2009, they were $10,417,969. The Adopted Budget for 2010 was $10,519,815.
I’m going to work with the four-year period that is presented in the Council material. Doing simple arithmetic, it looks to me like General Fund Total Expenditures actually increased by about $300,000. I don’t see a decrease from the beginning of this period to the current fiscal year and certainly not a $1.5 million decrease in General Fund expenditures.
Now, I could ignore 2007 and just look at 2008 to 2010. Over that period, there’s actually a decrease. However, it’s a little over $100,000, nowhere near $1.5 million. If I go from 2009 to 2010, it’s an increase again, of almost exactly $100,000. I just can’t find the $1.5 million in cuts.
It’s interesting to see where the cuts were during the year of the greatest change, the approximately $200,000 decrease in General Fund Total Expenditures from 2008 to 2009. It appears that in the line-item of “Streets” we went from $1,203,780 to $1,079,160, a reduction of about $200,000, and in the line-item of “Facilities” we went from $766,900 to $363,035, a reduction of about $400,000.
I found the actual areas of cost cutting to be rather surprising, because I keep hearing from some of our leaders that we’ve been cutting costs by cutting staff. In fact, I’ve heard three of our leaders say on more than one occasion that we’ve cut 10% of our staff several years in a row. With approximately 100 employees, that would total 30 employees over three years. These would be dramatic cuts indeed.
According to the 2009 Audit, “seven full-time staff positions were eliminated. Two of these were vacant positions within Public Works. The other five positions were layoffs and were comprised of an accountant in Finance, a technician in Engineering and three custodial positions.”
Personally, I’m not willing to count vacant-positions-not-filled as true cuts. I heard that the three custodial positions were replaced by out-sourcing to the private sector, so the cuts were really in public sector wage and benefit packages. So, by my criteria, there were two substantive cuts, and were some of the lowest paid positions in each department. Even if you’re going to give full “value” to all the cuts, it is at most seven and not ten.
Then I’ve got a PowerPoint presentation from the Finance Director to the Council; again I think it was in a Council packet. In it, the 2009 cuts are now characterized as “Administrative Assistant, Accountant, Three custodial positions (outsourced), and a “Reduction in hours for previously full-time employees”. So, now, it is at most six and not ten.
The PowerPoint slide has Staff reductions for 2010 listed as the Public Services Director, Building Official, and Maintenance worker. Doing my simple arithmetic, I’d say it adds up to three, not ten.
There’s more to the story, however. The Public Services Director position was created for our previous City Administrator by the prior City Administrator because the prior City Administrator liked to work from home. The position existed for, I’m not sure, nine to eighteen months. It’s hard for me to consider this to be a substantive cut. Then the Building Official was apparently let go because there wasn’t a need given the slowdown in the economy. I guess you count ’em where you get ’em. At any rate, it’s another three instead of ten.
For the 2011 Budget there was the Walinski Reorganization Plan. We cut an Administrative Assistant and a Planner and elevated two Department Heads to newly created Division Head positions. We offered a generous buyout package to the Community Development Director to take early retirement and, at least right now, the plan is to not replace him. I’m not going to comment on the concept of creating another layer of management with the new Divisions, but I’m only counting three cuts, not ten.
There are some more details related to the 2011 budget balancing plan in a recent Northfield News article. According to the article, in addition to the reorganization, there will be “pay freezes, reductions in travel and maintenance expenses”.
I guess I would characterize pay freezes as “cost increases not implemented” not “decreases”. There have been reductions in travel cited the last three years and I’m just wondering how much traveling is being done by staff that it results in a substantive additional cut three years running. Finally, I’ve already noted that we cut maintenance to facilities $400,000 a couple of years ago and that didn’t seem to work out too well, at least not for our Safety Center.
Back to the $1.5 million, the News article notes that these cuts total approximately $357,000 and the initial budget for 2011 is $10.37 million. That would be how much different from 2010’s $10.51 million? Or how much different from 2007’s $10.21 million? Time for you to do the math.
I’ve analyzed the information and I’ve done the math. It’s not adding up to $1.5 million in cost cutting, not even close.