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  Budget Comparison Project Underway
October 16, 2005



Last week, I hired Kevin Morsony to undertake the General Fund Budget Comparison project that will compare Richmond to 15 other cities for revenue and expenditures. Kevin is a recent graduate of U.C. Berkeley with a BA in Political Science. He lives in El Sobrante and previously attended De Anza high School. While at Berkeley, he was a staff writer for The Daily Californian Sports Section, a research assistant for the Institute of Governmental Studies and a program assistant in the Center in Politics.


Since the City provides no staff for this sort of thing, I am paying for it myself.


As an example, I prepared the budget summary for Richmond for FY 2005-2006, and it wasn’t easy. I began with the five-inch thick binder provided to the City Council. Although chock full of information, there is no summary where one can, at a glance, see the revenue and expenditures and how they balance. Thanks to many emails back and forth with Dale Flynn and James Goins of Finance, both of whom were extremely helpful and responsive, I was able to cobble together the one-page General Fund budget summary that is attached as a PDF file.


It is a continuing complaint of mine that the Richmond City Budget cannot be grasped by a normal person, much less a City Council member. Although I now have a model that I can understand, there are still many mysteries that may elude me forever. For example, some grants and the matching expenditures are carried in the General Fund budget, and some are not. Richmond Childrens’ Foundation provided a grant to operate recreational services for teenagers, which are provided by Recreation staff members. Library fines and fees are treated the same way. These are not included in the General Fund, but instead under a separate “Special Revenue” account. These are restricted funds, but they provide conventional services. Separating them from the General Fund, in my opinion, provides a skewed accounting of the total revenue and expenditures by the City for specific categories of services.


Aside from the General Fund, there are several large and separate funds, including the Redevelopment Agency and Housing Authority, and a number of smaller “enterprise” funds, such as the Port and the Auditorium, which are supposed to be self supporting but frequently are not.


I am also thinking of expanding the study to including comparable demographic information about the 16 cities, such as school test scores, per capita or household income, etc.