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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Budget Advisory Committee reports to Council

After weeks of hard work, Plainfield's Citizens Budget Advisory Committee finally got to make its report to the City Council at Monday evening's agenda session.

Sort of.

Chairperson Bill Amirault was put under considerable pressure to present the committee's extensive report in the 15 minutes he was allotted. (The presentation wasn't even on the Council's agenda, and the Committee received word the presentation would be 'on' only about an hour and a half before the meeting.)

Interestingly, Douglas Peck, the Director of Finance and Administration, whose responsibilities include the budget process, was not in attendance last evening.

The presentation, without any time limit being mentioned, had originally been scheduled for November 10th, though Council President Gibson said at that meeting that he expected the report to be made privately to the Council.

After clarification by Councilor Burney, Amirault was set up and ready to go when his presentation was bumped by Councilor Carter as chair of the committee-of-the-whole to give the Tsunami Track Club advocates time to present.

During that brief presentation, Amirault received word that his mother-in-law had died suddenly and had to leave. Hence the two week delay in the report's presentation.

I have put a copy of the CBAC report online here (to print a copy, click on the down arrow next to the 'iPaper' icon and select 'print' --

Get your own at Scribd or explore others: budget Plainfield

You will find it thorough, with many interesting proposals. And don't miss the detail pages at the end.

Among the recommendations were that the City start its budget process earlier, and set the committee up earlier.

This makes good sense, but I can testify from personal experience -- the McWilliams administration once got its budget process fired up in late April -- that it is not as easy as it seems. To boot, the whole budget calendar is complicated by--
  • a) having to have the auditors close the previous year's books (it takes time), and

  • b) having to wait on the state to supply its annual aid figure before a budget can be struck by the Council.
The earliest I can remember a budget being enacted was September 21, and that year we were among the very first communities to do so.

The Council thanked the committee members for their work, and I hope you will too.

I would hope that next year the process could be a little more formalized, perhaps with the Committee members sworn in at a Council meeting, and a list of members appended to the report, as well as a more openly stated expectation that the report was not only for the Council, but for the public.

That being said, it's good to have the CBAC back.

Congratulations all around.

The final adoption has been set back owing to the Local Finance Board's expected -- but very late -- December 10 meeting to approve the City's request for waivers on the state's cap on both the expenses and levy sides of the ledger.

Councilor Burney obtained a consensus last evening that the Council would hold two special meetings to finish the budget process --
  • Tuesday, December 16, 7 PM: Introducing the amended budget;

  • Monday, December 22, 7 PM: Adoption of the FY2009 budget (also the first day of Hannukkah)
A public hearing will allow for citizen input before a final vote is taken.

-- Dan Damon

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