Feedback for FY 2019 Budget

Laundry list of budget-related suggesstions

Since we don’t yet have a budget, there is no way to provide anything more than general suggestions/prescriptions. See below:

 

—Begin preparing comprehensive and cumulative fiscal impact analysis for development to analyze costs. A more thorough analysis would give board members the data needed to make better informed decisions, and it would enable staff to more accurately forecast long-term obligations and costs.

 

—Add or reallocate funding for the auditor to the county board so that he will have staff to support his efforts and increase capacity. Review of program and project efficiency and effectiveness will identify waste or inefficiencies and use these savings for other priorities.

 

—Apply stricter criteria for distribution of close-out funds (returning a reasonable portion to offset tax and fee increases in the coming year's budget or to pay off debt or avoid additional borrowing).

 

—Begin full funding of the county employee pension plan based on more realistic ROI numbers and include pension-related funding information in the annual budget. Catch up on retiree health benefits’ (OPEB) funding to erase the shortfall.

 

—Provide full disclosure of which county positions remain open longer than 12 mos. — flag all long-term unfilled positions for comparison against asks for new FTEs. There is no reasonable reason to force citizens to FOIA this information.

 

—Require the county to be able balance its books/accurately and account for all encumbrances at the end of each fiscal year.

 

—Invest in an actual accounting/budget software system (rather than continuing to spend large sums supporting a legacy program that the vendor no longer supports) to replace the outdated PRISM system, which as I understand it is a jerry-rigged records management system that was never suited to the task in the first place. PLEASE ALLOCATE FUNDING FOR ACTUAL STAFF TRAINING SO THAT EMPLOYEES WILL KNOW HOW TO USE THE NEW BUDGET/ACCOUNTING SYSTEM. That way, when HUD funds go missing, staff will have a clue about how to find them.

 

—Adopt a more straightforward and transparent policy guiding the structure of our fund balance — end the dance of a 1,000 veils with the credit rating organizations. Be upfront about how much money is truly available to pay off debt.

 

—Start analyzing the impact of effective tax-rate increases on commercial vacancy rates, added costs to support affordable housing, etc., to figure out the point of diminishing returns when considering whether to raise the tax rate.

 

—Adjust use of Transportation Capital Funds such that we actually spend some of the money on Metro or other projects that need IMMEDIATE funding. Road and bridge repair springs immediately to mind.

 

—Ask for legislative relief, if NVTA restrictions on the use of matching funds is too restrictive to permit these funds to be used effectively and efficiently on Arlington’s highest transportation and transit funding priorities.

 

—Apply VAPA's four ratios (measures of financial health) to our CAFR/General Fund to determine whether we are in good shape. Make the results available to the public along with any corrective actions or plans to correct deficiencies.

 

—Take a more holistic look at total borrowing and costs (not just GO borrowing) associated with repayments' impact on the General Fund. Enterprise fund debt still must be repaid, and overleveraging the tax base by not counting certain debt is unwise.

 

—Revise the employee whistleblower policy to more closely follow the federal government's policy, and strengthen employee protections to encourage and enable employees to feel safe to report waste, abuse or fraud without fear of retaliation or job loss. The auditor to the county board, not the manager, should decide whether an employee's tip is valid and whether he/she needs protection. We still remember what happened to part-time internal auditor Celia Walsh, and this kind of scapegoating and retaliation should NEVER be permitted to occur again.

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Idea No. 47