As a follow-up to the budget story last week, I took a pretty close look at Town Manager MMMartinez’s staff report. How could I not? How can revenues exceed budget by $2.3 million and yet the Town finds itself just $400,000 in the black at year’s end?
My favorite part of the budget review appeared on page 12 under Community Development expenditures:
“Community Development had $256,880 budgeted as grant revenue. Grant revenue is received as reimbursements for work actually done. This amount could not be received without corresponding expenditures. However, the expenditure side was not budgeted. The effect of this budgeting error is $248,000 in unbudgeted expenditures.”
That’ll take a bite out of a perceived budget surplus.
Actually, how can I single out a favorite part? There’s just so much to choose from. How about this? Former Police Chief Randy Schienle and Lieutenant Jim Short “received pay-outs for leave time totaling over $168,000.” This contributed to MLPD’s line-item for administration being over budget by almost $300,000.
More from community development. Another Brad Koehn (Former Town Finance Director) special. MMMartinez discovered that Koehn had creatively decided to categorize “savings” from staff reductions as “revenue.” He used the same accounting to drum up “revenue” for public works.
Is this standard accounting practice?
Here’s another one from Public Works. Headlined under Fleet Management. “A budgeted revenue of $193,595 from the DIF (Development Impact Fee) fund will not occur because the DIF funds are negative.”
To be more precise, DIF funds are negative to the tune of about $3.3 million.
From the Airport. “The Airport received $460,000 from the General Fund for litigation purposes in FY ‘10-’11.” Let’s just add that to the $5 million running tally of what the Airport owes the General Fund.
Really, Mammoth’s Town Council is fortunate. If it hadn’t adopted an “austerity” budget, it easily could’ve ended the year with a Velveeta budget (any budget running a deficit of a million or more).
So I offhandedly said to Councilman Rick Wood on Wednesday, “So what are you gonna do? Adopt the same budget forecast as last year minus 10%?”
“That sounds about right,” was his reply.
You get the impression that Koehn must’ve seen “Brewster’s Millions” back in the ‘80s and just loved the premise. In that Richard Pryor film, a minor league baseball player has 30 days to spend $30 million and if he does so without letting anyone know the deal, he stands to inherit $300 million.
And if he fails, the lawyers take over the estate and pay themselves a hefty handling fee.
Why is $30 million such a magic number?
Of course, it’s not $30 million anymore. It’s $40 million. Ain’t interest a bitch?
Question: How does a Town Council take credit for any sort of budget surplus when interest on a court judgment is 10% per year? You would need to be in the black by $3 million just to afford the interest payment. Let alone paying down principle.
And from Geisel …
Given the fiscal conundrum facing the Town, in light of the airport litigation and IOUs where our cash reserves should be, one of our readers hatched an idea that might have some merit: downsize local government so that you can house the Town’s entire operation inside the Cuppy’s Coffee building!
Think about it … you keep a few staff members, put them in some neat looking uniforms, with name tags … Ellen Clark stands at the drive-through window … “Welcome to the Town of Mammoth Lakes! May I take your order?”
“Yes, I’d like a Use Permit for a hotel-condo development.”
“Would you like density bonuses with that?”
“No, but I’d like a side of tax credits for geothermal heating.”
“Please drive around to the next window.”
And the site has a lot going for it. It’s new, the rent can’t be that much and the exterior has already passed the Planning Commission’s design review panel. It has a pocket park area that can be easily developed, and you can put some ADA compliant playground equipment on it.
And it’s a lot shorter commute to the break room.
And it has inadequate parking, making staffers feel the pain of their Village constituents.