by Max Brantley
JP Allen Kerr sends along a memo on Pulaski County budgeting for 2009. He says all departments that submit budgets at or below 2008 numbers will get an instant seal of approval.
Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, because this is a far more orderly approach than in evidence in the county's glory years of runaway deficit spending, but do you think it's possible that there might be one or two segments of county government that had a little fat LAST year? Is there not a single operation in the courthouse or administrative office building without a piece of dead wood or two? Not naming names, mind you.
Whatever. Outlook for pay increases is dim.
COUNTY BUDGET MEMO
Subject: The 2009 Budget Committee
After conferring with comptroller, Mike Hutchens, and County treasurer, Debra Buckner, we have been able to set some preliminary goals for the budgeting process. Once again the goal is to have the budget ready for approval by the November full Quorum Court meeting. This will be done by utilizing the same system for gathering the information needed to prepare the budget as we used the previous year, with just a few improvements.
First, the comptroller will forward each department a 2009 budget worksheet. This form will contain the departmental budget information for the 2008 budget year, a year to date expense for 2008 and a blank column for projected 2009 budget needs. This worksheet is required to be returned to the comptroller no later than September 16th. Once received, the comptroller will enter all department information into the computer system. Since the department heads are familiar with this process from last year, we think that the departments will have adequate time to send their projected needs to the comptroller by the deadline.
Once all of the budget requests are submitted, a determination will be made as to how many departments will have to be reviewed. The first budget meeting will be held on the 25th of September at 10 a.m. During that meeting, we will present a full budget committee calendar.
Once again, as an incentive to find cost cuts and reduce spending, any department M&O budgets that come in at, or below 2008’s budget will be reviewed and submitted as a group by the comptroller to be recommended approved. The materials for these departments will be given to the committee in advance of the meetings. Only if deemed necessary by the committee, will the department head be required to address the committee.
Any department requesting a budget amount in excess of the 2008 budget will have to submit a detailed justification and will need to be present for committee review. As always, the department heads will need to be prepared and be able to answer the questions posed by members of the budget committee.
However, as a word of caution, the revenue projections for 2008 are likely to be flat or as much as $500,000 under the 2007 actual revenue. ANY requests for employee upgrades or pay increases will be closely scrutinized and will have to be presented to the committee regardless of whether or not the requested budget for that department is at or below the 2008 level.
As elected officials we believe our first responsibility is to public safety. Therefore, additional time will be allotted to review both the Sheriff’s budget and the newly created Public Safety fund. This year we have asked the Sheriff to prepare only one budget to support 880 beds in the county jail. We will also discuss the progress of repairs and support of the older section, pods “A” and “B”, and the funding on the construction of a new 240-bed unit inside the security fence. Discussion and proposals on the additional city cost sharing for the work center and the new unit will be included.
The 2008 new streamlined budget procedures were a great success. This year we hope to duplicate our success and even improve our handling of the budget and those departments needing attention. We want to make sure the budget is ready for presentation and approval by the November full Quorum Court meeting. To that end, all meetings will convene and start on time as per the schedule presented at the first budget meeting. The materials and information to be reviewed for each session will be made available to each committee member prior to the meetings. We would ask each member to prepare by thoroughly studying the information pertaining to that day. In the interim, it will be of great advantage to review your published 2009 budget book, given to you by the comptroller, between now and our first meeting. You should also study the Ways and Means reports, and the comptroller’s spreadsheets from last month, as this will give everyone a good benchmark of where we are now.
We look forward to a very productive 2009 budget session.