Letter: Complaints about city budget unfounded

From: Oakel Hardy


I read the city budget story in the paper on Oct. 17 describing a complaint about elements in the 2017 city budget. I am a retired City of Columbus employee with 40 years of service — 20 years on the police department and 20 years handling many other duties including acting as Mayor Armstrong’s budget manager for 16 years.

I went to the city website and printed off the operating budgets. I was not looking for it, however, I almost immediately found that on the budgets that had been revised the column heading had been changed from “2016 Budget” to “2016 Revised Budget.” The budget is discussed page by page in the budget hearings, information is online and the hearings are recorded. I do not believe this supports the assertion that people had been deceived.

I then turned my attention to the $1.2 million in 2016 additional appropriations. The assertion by the complainants, as I understand it, was the original 2016 budget should have been used for the 2016 budget numbers. In my opinion, this represents a serious accounting issue. If you leave the $1.2 million out, you are understating the 2016 budget “as adjusted” and making an apples to oranges comparison between the 2016 original budget and 2016 year-to-date actuals, which would include the expenditures associated with those additional appropriations. Without adjustment, next year would be the same scenario. The result would be budget numbers that do not correspond to the official numbers found in the clerk-treasurer’s office

The next item of contention seemed to me to be comparing the 2016 “advertised rate” to the 2017 “advertised rate.” Someone must have asked a question concerning advertised rate versus certified rate and the 2016 rates were used as an example. Advertised rates are a necessary fiction that bear no relationship to reality.

To summarize this section, I did not find anything to support the assertions set forth in the complaint.

One of the toughest issues to deal with in the budget is the proposed employee pay raise. What we have typically done over the years is look at the inflation rate as a guide to what pay raise to offer. Some years we have had to do zero for lack of money; some years, few and far between, we have done 4 percent or 5 percent as a catch up.

The total U.S. inflation rate for the 12 months ending September 2016 was 1.5 percent. In our area, we did a little better with a rate of 1.1 percent. Given those numbers a pay raise for 2017 of 1.5 percent appears to be reasonable. Other increases in the 2017 budget seemed to me to be well focused on known community needs.

Great budgets are the result of team work between the mayor, his department heads, the expert accounting of Clerk-Treasurer Louann Welmer, city council and the excellent work of Jaime Brinegar — budget director. My congratulations to all of you.