Friday, May 22, 2015

Budget vote scheduled for today

Councilmembers Ball and Terrasa appear to me to be attempting to solve two different but equally important flaws in the Administration proposed budget.  They have introduced Amendment26 to CB 23-2015 and Amendment2 to CR 73-2015.

Problem #1 is what I discussed earlier this week, using one-time money in the operating budget.  In my post earlier I said “Kittleman’s proposed budget takes $5 million in revenue from the sale of a piece of property and uses it to pay for operating expenses, half of it in the school budget of all places.”  The part about half of it being placed in the school system is accurate according to the administration.  However, like Denise Richards – it’s complicated[1].  Truthfully inside general pots of money in the budget one cannot actually delineate specific dollars from specific sources.  So we can tell that the money from the property sale is in operating but not which dollars spent are those dollars. 

These amendments clearly fix that budgeting faux pas by proposing to move that money to the school system capital budget, where as James Howard notes here, is precisely where money from property disposal revenue belongs.

Secondly, these amendments get enough money in the school system budget to offer teachers a minimal raise. This takes a little back story so stay with me for a moment.  The Council has limited authority to amend the Administration’s proposed budget.  They can cut but they cannot add except to restore any difference between the Board of Education request and the actual proposed in the Administration’s budget.  So if the Board of Ed asks for $1 Billion and the Executive’s proposes giving them $900 million, the Council can give them the additional $100 million.

In developing their proposed budget, the Board of Ed was forced to guess what would happen on the state level as it relates to funding the Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI)[2].   I don’t fully understand GCEI really and truthfully it’s not that relevant here except for it’s the back-story.  Within the predictions for GCEI funding, reality in GCEI funding, and reality in what the Executive has proposed there is a gap that the Council has the authority to restore and these Amendments propose to do just that.

Without that restoration of funds the Board of Ed says they do not have any money to offer teacher's a raise in the next budget.  Truthfully, I find that kind of shameful but that's a post for another time.  The bottom line is these amendments give the school system money to offer teachers a small raise.  We can engage in the arguments over teacher pay and every condescending piece of that argument if you like but I stand unapologetically on the side of getting anything we can to our teachers.

One last note, the money for both of these fixes is taken out of the OPEB[3] fund.  If you’re not following County budgets over the last few years you know little nothing of OPEB and if you are you maybe know slightly more than that. It seems likely that opposition to these amendments will revolve around the theory that short changing our OPEB plan is bad fiscal management and might be frowned upon by the three debt rating agencies.  While I think these numbers fall within the margins and no one (except for maybe Councilman Fox) is overly concerned about a rush to fully fund OPEB this argument is ironic to the core.  Not correcting the irresponsible budget stunt of using one time money in operating because it would be irresponsible to reduce the contribution to OPEB is ironic and a little too mad hatter through the looking glass for my tastes.

[1] That’s such a stupid and obscure reference but if you are curious this clip explains (sorta) the bottom of the barrel reality show.
[2] This WashingtonPost article discusses O’Malley’s fight with GCEI.  Hogan’s fight over GCEI discussed in this WBAL story
[3] Other Post-Employment Benefits or what we will have to pay retired and other former County Employees.  It’s a future expense and it fairly recently became a larger burden than originally anticipated.

No comments:

Post a Comment