City of South Burlington manager, Sanford I. Miller reported at a recent town meeting his budget for the year 2012. Mr. Miller acknowledged that transparency would be the standard over the 2011 budget.
The need for transparency came into effect after many years if bad bookkeeping. Simply stated that for a considerable period of time the city government engaged in improper bookkeeping practices that eventually lead to the under reporting of expenditures. This of perpetual unorthodox budgeting practices. This result, combined with five years of deficits, and underfunding of city pensions will unfortunately require the city of South Burlington into reducing services, substantially increase both property taxes and enterprise fund rate.
Tax Rates increase
The expected property tax increase for 2012 is 8.9% over the budget for 2011. Which for a home exceeding $100,000 in assessed value would amount to $38.00. Other services like the water fund budget is expected to jump by 16.64% over 2011. More examples of city governments putting consumers on the hook are found in the cities pension and health costs. Although the city is trying to find plausible solutions to cover the additional costs that they are likely to face. Mr. Miller acknowledges that the additional cost is the more serious fact of underfunding prior years of employee pension benefits. This amount could be a contigent liability of some $9 million.
Internal Control changes
Mr. Miller further reported that several organizational practices will be implementated. These changes represent more oversight and accountability by city government. Mr. Miller proposed some 9 organizational practices. The major changes being proposed are:
- set up a comprehensive purchasing system
- reviews of department expenditure done weekly
- develop a schedule of assets
These proposals seem rather logical and are commonly found as established patterns in many private enterprises. Why initiate such practices now should be a question being pondered by the general population.
The cuts in services:
Mr. Miler proposes that the city will need to cut a considerable number of positions and reduce several others. For example,
- road paving (FY 11) from $477,960 to (FY 12) $316,721
- terminate 2 snow plowing positions
- cut library hours to the public
- cut in the planning office
- reduce use of the city school resource officer
The transparency debate is far from over. In fact there will be considerable discussion by residents, the business community, and other interested or affected parties as 2011 becomes 2012.