Monday, September 02, 2019

Municipal Court Revenues Down, Expenses Up

City Council's budget workshop on 8-27-19 had staff projecting a nearly $400,000 decline in Municipal Court revenues.  When asked why revenue had fallen the manager said the number of tickets written declined.  A second why question from Council got a deflection.

The Municipal Court manager was not the person to answer why the number of citations declined.  What manager fails to ask why when numbers differ from projections?  Staff frequently are unable or unwilling to answer the most basic questions from elected officials.

Curious as to the long term trend I pulled financial figures from the City's annual budget documents.  The numbers below are actual for 2012 to 2018, while 2019 takes the first ten months of the year and annualizes those numbers.  2020 is staff's projected budget.

Municipal Court revenues varied over the last seven years while expenses rose.  Assistant City Manager Michael Dane mentioned a reorganization that reduced court staff expenses but city numbers do not show an expense reduction for the year of Judge Gilbert's retirement or the upcoming budget year.

Judge Gilbert, now President and Consulting General Manager for Ener-Tel, retired from City employment after 44 years.  The Judge's reorganization got him full retirement benefits from the city, the top job as a major local employer that does significant business with the city and a $60,000 a year consulting gig with his former employer.  That doesn't count the Judge's spice business or his small court fill-in gigs at nearby towns.   Often employees suffer financially in a "reorg."  Not Judge Gilbert.  City Council approved the Judge's consulting agreement in March under the consent agenda.

I trust the revenue and expense numbers for each year until 2020 projected.  Finance staff like to under-estimate revenue and over-estimate expenses, sometimes called a budget cushion or sandbagging.  Time will reveal the accuracy of staff's predictions. 

No comments: