Board Rejects Proposal to Cut Commissioner Office Budgets by 4%
We are nearing the end of our annual budgeting process on the Hennepin County board, with a vote on the final budget scheduled for Tuesday, December 15. I expect a 2010 budget to pass (although I will not support it) that is slightly smaller than the 2009 budget, but it will contain a 3% increase in the property tax levy. I will post more information on that proposed budget soon.
Today, we had a budget hearing during which commissioners were allowed to propose amendments to the budget the administration has presented to us. There were a couple of amendments to move or restore funding to certain programs that had been cut. I brought in one amendment: To cut our commissioner office budgets by 4% for 2010. It failed 1 – 6.
Each of the seven commissioners is allotted just under $330,000 to pay his or her own salary and benefits along with that of staff (most of us employ two full-time staff members). This money is also used for any other county-related purposes as deemed appropriate by the individual commissioner, e.g. travel, tuition reimbursement, seminar/convention fees, office supplies and furniture, publications, etc. Most commissioners spend less than their allotted amount and return a small percentage back to the general fund at the end of the year.
In April of this year, the County Administrator requested every department within the county to submit a preliminary budget for 2010 that was 4% smaller than 2009. All departments did and that was the starting point for the current budget proposal. For whatever reason, our commissioner budgets were not cut in that budget proposal.
A 4% cut in a generous office budget is not much of a sacrifice, and I recognize that the $88,000 it would have saved the county taxpayers is miniscule in the grand scheme of a $1.6 billion budget. Nonetheless, it could have been a simple and important message to send county employees and taxpayers.
As I told my colleagues in presenting this amendment, I think as leaders, we should be willing to make a sacrifice similar to that we are asking our employees to make. Unfortunately, no one agreed with me.