There they go again. Our Virginia Beach City Council, as reported by the Virginian-Pilot March 2nd, continues to complain that “its too early in the city’s budget process to know” how much to take from the school system and also that, “we don’t know where the city of Virginia Beach is at the moment.”
Well, Virginia Beach city Council, you certainly should know. City staff keeps you very well informed with timely and detailed financial data. Three reasons why it’s not “too early” and why council should know where we are “at the moment.”
First, the director of the Virginia Beach Finance Department has been presenting, each and every month, the composite of expenditures and revenues to date. So, each month you, City Council, know how much you have spent and how much you have received in revenues.
Second, about four years ago, city staff presented to council a series of documents called “budget drivers” for each department. For example, in 2007 our Public Utilities Department employed 399 people at an annual budget of $96 million. Human Services had 990 people and an annual budget of $100.6 million. And Housing and Neighborhood Preservation Department had 69 people and a budget of $18.9 million.
These are only three examples, but shows clearly that specific data regarding people and expenditures is, and has been, available at Council’s request.
Third, during the last nine years the five-year forecasts have shown over and over again that deficits have become a normal way of doing business for successive city councils of Virginia Beach. A study of those five-year forecasts for the years 2001 through 2009 shows a deficit for nearly every year of that 14 year span (2002 – 2015). Only three years forecasts a surplus.
Also, the five-year forecast of November 2009, after reporting deficits for years to come, concluded the analysis of our Virginia Beach fiscal situation by stating, “we have a long-term structural imbalance.” The five-year forecast for November 2010 concluded with a similar thought, “we will face tough choices.”
So, here we are in March 2011 with a “long-term structural imbalance” and facing “tough choices” and our Mayor says that we don’t know where we are. That familiar lament – we don’t have enough time to understand the budget – yet again.
Unfortunately, a major holdup (Pardon the pun.) seems to be: How to screw our school board out of $14.5 million for council’s projects and make council look as though they are being virtuous.