Monday, April 07, 2008

The Smoke and Mirrors around the Mayor's School Budget Increases

I'll let Council Member Emily Evans give you the upsides of those now storied increases in the Mayor's education budget (consistent with his campaign promises). This evening she launches what is the first chapter of what looks to be a helpful and basic budget guide on her blog for those of us who have trouble wrapping our minds around that ponderous document. I want to focus on what she charitably calls the "not-so-good-news":
Over $19 million of the schools budget will be funded through spending reserves. This $19MM comes on the heels of $8mm of reserves we spent last year. If we keep this up, those historically high reserves won't last long. So, as it stands between this budget and last, we have spent $27MM for recurring expenses from non-recurring sources.
So, instead of taxing and spending, we are raiding the savings and spending; it's the conservative, immediate-gratification means of funding services that people demand.

The depressed housing market and the recession may be making this a rainy day worthy of dipping into those funds, but I would wager that even if the housing bubble were still aloft, we wouldn't be taking responsibility for our services--thanks to the property tax referendum incited by Tennessee Tax Revolt--by actually raising the revenues to pay for them. I think that it is fair to pose the possibility that the Mayor's dip into reserves is "voodoo economics" writ local, while granting that the recession gives him some cover to disagree.

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