Sounds like a boring subject, doesn’t it.
Just look at what was presented to the McHenry County Board’s Finance Committee this week:
How do professionals do budgets?
I learned that lesson the hard way in my first real job–being a baby Budget Examiner at the United States Bureau of the Budget (now called the Office of Budget and Management). It was a heady experience. I was twenty-three and assigned the Small Business Administration. It had the largest budget of any independent agency.
When I asked the SBA a question, those getting the inquiry didn’t know if it was from me alone or from somewhere in Lyndon Johnson’s White House.
The budget didn’t have a lot of line items.
I learned what they were about and, when I was preparing the budget, I tried to figure out what was needed for each purpose.
Then I added up the figures and presented the result to my Section Chief, Sam Lawrence.
He looked at my first proposal and sent me back to do it again.
He looked at my second proposal and again asked for a re-do.
The third time, he taught me a lesson that the County Board has learned in recent years.
“I don’t care what those numbers above the bottom line say,” Lawrence told me in exasperation.
“I want that number (he was pointing to the bottom line) to be (a specific number he stated).”
I can only imagine the amusement my Senior Budget Examiner Roger Adkins had watching my learing experience.
The lesson learned was that people preparing budgets need to decide on the bottom line first.
So, what should the County be doing first?
Deciding whether it wants to continue its policy of not asking for additional money from current taxpayers or not.
Currently, an attempt, imperfect though it is, is made to ask for just the extra money that new construction during the year will provide if taxed at the same rate as existing property.
Nowhere on that timeline do I see that decision…unless it is the first time the budget goes to the entire County Board on September 15th.
Way before then, it will be known if the approximately $3 million that Governor Bruce Rauner wishes to withhold in income tax revenue sharing will be a reality.
If such legislation passes, more time to figure out where to make cuts beats the less time that a September 15th decision would allow before the start of the Fiscal Year on December 1st.