When the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners passed the 2012 budget on Feb. 28, it was balanced with a $12 million surplus from 2011 recently discovered by the county administration.
And some commissioners have a problem with that.
“That’s not good planning,” said Commissioner Elaine Boyer.
Members of the commissioners’ finance committee were told of the $12 million approximately a week before the board voted to approve the budget when the county administration presented an amended 2012 budget.
The board voted 4-3 to set the 2012 budget at $559 million with no tax increase.
Burke Brennan, chief communications officer for the county, said the $12 million was discovered when the county closed its financial books for 2011.
“When we prepare the budget in December, it’s still during the [fiscal] year,” Brennan said. Until the fiscal year is closed out, “we don’t realize to the penny where we are.”
Brennan said the funds were saved because “we didn’t spend all the money allocated to spend in 2011.”
According to an explanation from the county’s finance department given to The Champion, “the 2012 proposed budget as submitted by [Ellis] on Dec. 15, 2011, projected $544 million in revenue for Fiscal Year 2011. The actual amount was $547.89 million for a difference of $3.88 million.”
The statement from the finance department said the difference between projected expenditures for 2011 and the actual expenditures for that year was $8.3 million.
“The net of these two calculations for the 2012 budget is $12.16 million, which is …above the amount estimated in the proposed budget,” according to the statement. An additional $247,000 in fines and forfeitures revenue from Recorder’s Court brings the total surplus to $12.42 million.
“Expenditure projections are composed of detailed projections for several dozen departments and tend to be fluid throughout the year,” according to the statement. “Additionally, expenditure projections are generally made conservatively, such that expenditures are slightly over-estimated on average, rather than risking the consequences of under-estimating. This, along with prudent budgetary governance, accounted for the higher-than-projected surplus.”
“It’s inappropriate; it’s unacceptable,” said Commissioner Lee May, chairman of the county’s finance committee. “Either [the county’s administration] didn’t know, which is unacceptable, or they knew and decided not to tell us.
“We were told by [CEO Burrell Ellis that] the $12 million was due to the tightening of the belts,” May said.
May said the money equates to one mill of revenue, which would have meant a smaller tax increase in the 2011 budget.
“That’s something that I could have supported last year,” May said.
Although he called the administration’s accounting “unacceptable,” May called the money a “godsend” because it will cover $10 million in employee health of which that the county administration was unaware.
“The CEO miscalculated the health expenses to the tune of $10 million,” May said. “So if we didn’t have this $12 million, we would be in a much greater hole in terms of revenue for our budget,” May said.
“That was a huge, huge miss,” said Boyer, who did not vote in favor of the budget. “I have a real concern about that.
“My conscience won’t allow me to vote for that knowing all that’s about to come down the pipe,” Boyer said. “Until I found out about the $10 million, I was willing to maybe entertain some of these things.”
Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton said “$10 million just popping up at the end of the budgeting process and nobody informing us about it is just totally unacceptable.”