Thursday, February 5, 2015

Free Money

One of the quirks of government accounting (okay, maybe I should say one of the many) is capital items are not considered part of the "operating budget."

If a homeowner buys a semi-commercial sit down lawnmower or needs to repave the driveway, that money simply comes out of their household budget.  And when those capital costs reach a certain point maybe the family does not take a vacation that year

But in municipal accounting capital items are appropriated out of a separate pot, although still taxpayer money of course.  Thus public sector managers can then talk about their operating budget breaking even when in fact the overall business costs taxpayers an arm and a leg via expensive machines purchased as capital items.

Take the Cherry Hill Golf Course for instance.  Please.

This coming Fiscal Year (FY16 starts July 1st) Cherry Hill will require yet another expensive lawnmower ($33,000) paid for over three years at $11,000 per year.

And FY16 will also be the last year of a three year payment for a greens mower that cost $37,500 paid for over three years at $12,500 per year.

In other words that total capital of $23,500 is sort of free money not tallied against their $245,937 Operating Budget.  As are Employee Benefits costs of $40,488.

Thus the average homeowner would put the cost of golf at $309,925 next year, but town officials will only talk about the much lower number, even going so far as to suggest the golf course is a break even endeavor.

And next year that expensive capital item (Parking Lot Resurfacing @ $90,000) they have kept putting off for years now will be a major budget buster. 

Click to enlarge/read
5 year plan from two years ago Parking Lot repave originally shows up for FY14

Parking lot repave pushed off again until next year (+ extra $5,000)

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