At Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, our township manager Mimi Gleason presented Tredyffrin’s preliminary budget for 2012 that indicates a 6.9% millage real estate increase will be required to balance the budget. As she does each year, Gleason presented a budget summary, which was designed as an overview of the township’s current financial picture. Included in the summary are 2011 budget and forecasted revenue and expenditures through the end of the year plus the 2012 preliminary budget. Two summary tables marked ‘General Fund Revenue’ and ‘General Fund Expenditures’ are part of the township manager’s document dated November 10, 2011.
I do not know about you, but when I review budget data, I look at the totals, the ‘bottom line’ – just assuming that the math is correct. Laying no claim as a financial expert, when I reviewed the township’s budget memorandum, I accepted Ms. Gleason’s summary information as correct and her math as accurate. As the hired professional and chief executive officer of the township, in my view, she is the expert and I had no reason to question the accuracy of the information.
Resident and former township supervisor John Petersen reviewed Ms. Gleason’s budget summary and discovered multiple mathematical errors in the report. I learned of the mistakes in the budget information when I was copied on emails to Gleason, along with township supervisor John DiBuonaventuro and resident Ray Clarke.
In review of Gleason’s budget summary, the totals for the General Fund revenue and expenditure summary tables are incorrect. The 2012 budget revenue should be $16,467,175, and the difference vs. the 2011 Forecast is ($141,748). On the expenditure summary table totals, the 2011 Forecast should be $16,916,736 the 2012 Budget should be $16,926,204, and the difference vs. the 2011 Forecast should be $9,468. If you use these corrected totals from the revenue and expenditure tables, similar errors are now contained in Gleason’s summary description. In referring to 2011, Gleason states, “the year is forecast to end $377,000 under budget.” Due to mathematical error, this information is incorrect; the year is forecast to end $355,160 under budget, not $377,000. Gleason states the “General fund revenue is projected to decrease another $130,000 in 2012, for a total decrease of $330,000 versus the 2011 budget.” Correcting the math, the 2012 general fund revenue is projected to be $255,950 less than the 2011 budget, not $330,000.
What does all this mean to us the taxpayer and to the budget process? With declining revenues and increasing costs of our current economic climate, it is more important than ever to account for every dollar. As taxpayers, we trust that the financial information is accurate – isn’t this information checked and re-checked. After all, the township manager’s budget information would have multiple in-house reviews before it goes public, correct. Finance Director, Township Manager, Supervisor Finance Committee, Board of Supervisors . . . all of these people have access to this information before the public sees it. Where is the accountability? Are these kinds of mathematical ‘mistakes’ OK? These errors are in the budget summary . . . are there additional errors in the budget line listings?
Reading the township revenue and expenditure summaries, I find it confusing and difficult to understand. There is not an adequate breakdown of the department expenditures and the account detail worksheets do not provide sufficient explanation (particularly of increased costs). Can the public please have a complete township budget with all details? If you look at the school district, they are far more transparent, providing complete information, including every check written from TESD. The last budget update from TESD was 180+ pages and provided the public with complete information. The township budget is a fraction of the school district budget; should we not expect similar public information?
We were all caught up in the EIT campaign hype over the last month leading up to Election Day. We were inundated with Republican campaign mailers, robo-calls and yellow signs all claiming ‘No EIT’ and then the defense from the Democratic camp. As was the case when I ran for the Board of Supervisors in 2009, the Republican campaign materials implied that if voters elected a Democrat candidate, residents would be in line for an increase in taxes.
Election Day 2011 was only a week ago and we know from the results that Tredyffrin Township will continue as an all-Republican Board of Supervisors and the School Board will be Republican-majority in its membership. Democrats were not elected because they presumably would ‘raise taxes’. So how is it that a week after the election, the Republican Board of Supervisors present a budget that contains a 6.9% tax increase?
There were two 2012 township budget workshops, late August and October 1. The supervisors would have known that a tax increase would be required for 2012. Rather than indicate or suggest the possibility of a 2012 tax increase, the supervisors choose to wait until after Election Day. And the Republicans said it was the Democrats who would raise taxes . . . guess this is ‘politics’.
Between the tax increases from the township and the school district, what do you guess the overall increase will be for the Tredyffrin taxpayer . . . 10%, 12%?