Explain This “Fiscal Conservative” Thing to Me Again

As we move into campaign mode over the next few months in anticipation of the city election in November, we are going to hear the accomplishments of the “Fiscal Conservatives” who are running for re-election.

So, I spent the weekend pouring over the old city budgets.  They are all available online at www.iop.net under the City Services tab.

A bit of background before getting to the numbers.  The fiscal year for the city runs July 1 to June 30.  So, city council started working on Fiscal Year 2015-16 in January of this year. In the interest of clarity, I am going to call the current budget we are operating under Fiscal Year 2016, but realize that it started several weeks ago on July 1, 2015.

What follows is total city expenditures budgeted by city council for each fiscal year.  That is, this is what city council planned to spend.   Spending could, in fact, be more or less because of all kinds of circumstances, but what these numbers represent is the fiscal intent of city council.

Here are the numbers in dollar amounts:

2009                                    8,066,663

2010                                    8,067,982

2011                                    8,347,497

2012                                    8,511,235

2013                                    8,472,581

2014                                    8,914,839

2015                                    9,529,908

2016                                   10,331,061

From 2009 to 2012 the budget grew by $444,572, or 5.51%.

This is pretty much right in line with inflation, maybe even a bit less, depending on whether you are using the CPI (Consumer Price Index) or the Federal Reserve’s preferred PCE (Personal Consumption Expenditure) which is usually lower than the CPI.

From 2013 to 2016 the budget grew by $1,858,480 or 21.9%

Whoa!  What happened to the budget in 2013?  The citizens elected two new members to city council, Jimmy Carroll and Jimmy Ward when they defeated the incumbents Brian Duffy and Ralph Piening in the November 2011 election.  Jimmy Ward, in particular, campaigned incessantly as a “fiscal conservative.”  Carroll and Ward joined Ryan Buckhannon and Mike Loftus who also call themselves “fiscal conservatives.”  Upon joining city council in January 2012 they began work on the 2013 budget.

Then, for budget year 2015, the city added two more new city councilmembers in Patrick Harrington and Sandy Ferencz who replaced Sandy Stone and Doug Thomas when the latter two decided not to seek re-election in November 2013.  Lo and behold the budget for 2015, for which work began in January 2014 got even worse.  This budget cycle now had 5 “fiscal conservatives” on city council, a majority! They could have worked together and controlled the spending, but instead the spending ramped even higher!

Here’s the point: the city is not growing and there have been no disasters but the budget is exploding. Maybe the “fiscal conservatives” could tell us just what fiscally conservative measures they have taken and what “fiscal conservative” means to them.

I am not sure the city can afford much more “fiscal conservatism”.

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