Overspending The Budget YET AGAIN
By Susan M. Halpern
Former Addison Councilmember (1992-1999)
They’re at it again. Meier is about to lead this council to overspend the budget for the third year in a row. You see, they’ve painted themselves into somewhat of a corner with this whole Kanter fiasco. Now they’re spending our tax money for shamelessly political reasons.
Start here: the recent Kanter presentation was a recycled version of his almost-two-year-old July 11, 2014 letter. In that letter, Kanter opined that the Finance Department was significantly understaffed. Management responded: “While we generally agree with the provided recommendations, we will also evaluate the cost-benefit of these recommendations….” Further: “Throughout this process we will make sure our recommendations are those of best practice, yet feasible to the organization.”
Around this same time, early July 2014, the council received the results of a compensation study that concluded that our employee compensation was not competitive. The council ignored and rejected the recommendations of the expert who conducted the study. Once again, Meier and his cadre believed they were the smartest folks in the room. And employee attrition has continued, particularly with respect to police and fire personnel.
During the budget process in the Fall of 2014, with full knowledge of Kanter’s observations about the Finance Department being understaffed, the council did not allocate any funds to address this issue. And, having rejected the recommendations of the compensation study, the council refused to adequately address Addison’s non-competitive compensation issues.
Fast forward a year to the Fall of 2015. Again, with full knowledge of Kanter’s observations that by then were well over a year old, Meier and his cadre again failed to allocate funds to address the Finance Department understaffing. FOR THE SECOND YEAR IN A ROW.
They also postponed action on the continuing employee compensation issue. Instead, they decided to spend more taxpayer money on yet another compensation study. The good news was that they set aside a pool of about $500,000 to deal with the issue, but the bad news for employees was that they saw none of it, and that remains the case five months later.
So here’s where politics intervened. As soon as Meier realized there were six candidates for the three seats currently occupied by Meier’s incumbents, he grew nervous. In an act of sheer desperation, he trotted Kanter back out, orchestrating Kanter’s inappropriate, recycled, inflammatory February presentation. Even though they’d heard it all two years ago, and had twice ignored the Finance Department staffing issue during the budget process, Meier and his cadre acted surprised (emphasis on “acted”). And that, of course, backed them into the corner they are now trying to escape.
Which brings us to tomorrow night. With the walls closing in on this ill-conceived, destructive “strategy,” Meier and his cadre have decided they have to do something about the Finance Department’s staffing issues. Even though they’ve ignored it for almost two years and TWO BUDGET CYCLES. Even though it’s not in the budget.
So at their March 22nd meeting, they’re proposing to pull $374,514 out of a hat not included in any budget, to implement staffing recommendations that were made almost TWO YEARS AGO. And I guarantee you that they will try to make this all seem recent and therefore urgent. I can’t wait for the first member of the Meier contingent to claim that this was “unanticipated.”
It is, of course, nothing of the sort. It is nothing more than a political ploy being played out using my taxpayer money, which is beyond comprehension and irresponsible.
And, if they do it, this will be the third year in a row that they’ve overspent the budget.
All of this is before we even get to the report Meier and his cadre will receive on the latest employee compensation study (costing more taxpayer dollars) which will AGAIN tell this council that our employee compensation packages are NOT COMPETITIVE. Police and fire officers are more than 5% BELOW market rates and several civilian positions need pay grade increases. Other Addison employees are 2% BELOW market. If they don’t act, employee attrition will continue.
And of course, this council still hasn’t figured out where in the world they’re going to find the $6.5 million promised to the Sam’s redevelopment.
This isn’t budgeting, this is a complete abdication of responsibility in favor of perceived personal and political gain. And, I say again, this approach is clearly unsustainable.
Addison’s residents must demand more.