Saturday, October 28, 2006

I Had No Idea

A third or more of the city's budget is spent on firefighters' salaries. At least we can infer that from some of the information that we've been given. About a year ago, we were warned that the city's operating budget would be down to $230M, as opposed to the $600M that it had been before Katrina. That must have been an optimistic projection, because at the end of the "100 days" we were told that the city was operating on a quarter of its pre-Katrina budget. It wasn't just Nagin and Couhig who said that, a Times Picayune editorial even opined that:
Mayor Nagin and his team should be recognized for some of the deeds listed Tuesday. Administrators have kept finances afloat despite working with only a quarter of the city's pre-Katrina budget.

Now we're told that the city spends $50M annually on firefighters' salaries, go figure.

It's time to get real, numbers do have meaning. I can't believe that nobody else was curious about that 25% figure. I think that I've figured out the ridiculous way Nagin or Couhig or Hatfield came up with it. In 2004, the city had an operating budget of $460 million Now the budget's down to $324 million. But 50% of that budget was "under-funded." I can only assume that "under-funded" means borrowed. Still half of $324M is more than a quarter of $460M. But the city's budget was almost $550M when Nagin took office*. I suppose you can round 550 to 600 and 160 to 150. So if you don't count borrowed money as spent money and do a lot of rounding, it makes perfect sense.

*That $550M budget was the highest that turned up when I briefly used the google. A more thorough search might have found a higher figure. It's irrelevant, N.O. never had a $1.3B operating budget.

Update: Rereading this and my earlier post on the subject, I see that I failed to mention that that Dr. Hatfield maintains that the city's proposed 10% pay raise for firefighters would cost $2.1M a year. Yet we're told that the city spends $50M on firefighters' salaries.

The City has long used accounting which would send most people to jail.

I vote(d) for a more transparency.
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