Image Link 08/18/2016

Seat-of-the-Pants Budgeting

An "Elbert County Budget Schedule 2016" was distributed by County Manager Ed Ehmann, a document that states it was updated on 6/6/16. The accepted procedure for assembling a proposed budget, that is required by statute to be presented to the county commissioners by October 15, is to meet with each individual department to determine needs and funds available.

Following the submittal of the proposed budget, several steps occur: adjustments to projections made, public hearing held, changes in property valuation made to BOCC by assessor, certification of mill levies, adoption of final budget, and submittal to the state (statutory deadline for final budget to the state is December 31).

So it is easy to see that the budgeting process requires a lot of advance planning. In fact, during a recent presentation by the insurance pool that Elbert County participates in, the county was informed that they should have started the budgeting process in March.

And where exactly does Elbert County stand as far as being on track to get our budget signed, sealed, and delivered by December 31? Let me count the ways:

1) Scheduled to begin Department Budget Meetings on August 1, and continue through October 1, on Wednesdays from far the first 3 meetings have been canceled. (Keep in mind that we SHOULD HAVE started this process in March, per our insurance company).

2) When Commissioner Ross instructed the county clerk that all budget sessions are to be posted (at a staff meeting on 8/15/16), Ehmann stated that he doesn't want the postings to show specifically which departments are meeting when, he wants "just general postings." (Not exactly the transparent government that Ehmann's "team" has crowed about for the past several years).

3) It was announced at the staff meeting on 8/15/16 that the scheduled meeting on August 17 would go over budgets for the sheriff's office and the IT department. Sounded good to me because I have been attempting to get a line item budget from the sheriff's department for the past 3 years, with the same response each year, "No such document exists." But guess what happened on the way to that budget meeting? You guessed it.....CANCELLED one day before it was to happen! (As a side note, the Freedom of Information Coalition, an organization dedicated to transparency in government, has also requested that line item budget from the sheriff.....they received the same "No such document exists" response as I did.)

4) At the November 18, 2015 attempted coup at the commissioners' meeting, Ehmann stated that he hadn't even met with all the departments when he prepared the 2016 budget. Is this the track we are on for 2017?

Time's a wasting, Mr. Ehmann......who also happens to hold the title of Budget Officer for Elbert County. Mr. Ehmann is not a qualified budget officer: he has no credentials, experience or education in this field.....borne out by this confusing charade that he calls "budgeting."

One of the main reasons I am running for county commissioners is the budget. We pass deficit budgets, we overspend in the "expenses" category every year, and we have reduced our asset position by over $15 million in the last 5 years.

It is time for a change and for COMMON SENSE, NOT MORE OF THE SAME in our county government.

- Jill Duvall