Saturday, October 07, 2006

Bean Counters Alert

Plainfield’s budget process has varied over the years.

Basically, division and department heads make requests for the amount of money they need to function in the coming year. The administration reviews the requests and can modify them. Then the administration’s requests go to the governing body for final review.

In budget deliberations, the City Council interviews divisions and departments and then decides on final amounts which are then subject to public budget hearings before final passage.

But the process has had its quirks.

For a few years, the seven-member council enlisted a 21-member budget advisory committee to aid the process. In the past, the council has also hired its own budget advisor to guide its decisions.

The city’s fiscal year begins July 1 and end June 30 of the next year.

This year, the council only received the administration’s proposed budget in September and even though budget meetings had been scheduled from July through September, the first meeting was held Oct. 4., and the scheduled department head didn’t even show up.

The next budget meetings are Oct. 17 and Oct. 31.

Anyone who wants to question the budget has time to compare both the 2006 and 2007 budgets in the City Clerk’s office for anomalies such as new confidential aides, two assistant Public Works directors and other quirks before the Oct. 18 public hearing on the introduced budget.

There are two budget documents. One is the budget statement that must be sent to the state (an 11x17 document) and the other is the detailed budget binder that gives all the detail and rationales for expenditures (about three inches thick). Both should be available in the City Clerk’s office.

Interested citizens should scrutinize these documents and be prepared to speak out at the Oct. 18 hearing.

--Bernice Paglia


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