Where’s the junk?


On 1/17/2014, I submitted my budget to the Board of Supervisors (BOS) for the fiscal year beginning on 7/1/2014.  It was 18 pages long and contained vision and mission statements, goals, and examples of how the employees in the Office of Linn County Auditor had implemented my goals and Linn County’s Strategic Goals (approved by the BOS).  I provided an executive summary, historical employment figures, discussed span of control, provided a table showing the budget trends, and meticulously described the assumptions I had used for requesting funding for next year.  All five Supervisors were present for my review along with the Finance Director, the Budget Director, and some of my employees.  This year’s budget review – even though it was about two hours long – showed little of the contentiousness of last year’s budget review.

In addition to the budget, I submitted five offers, i.e., requests for additional funding from the BOS.  I prioritized them in order of need, e.g., my top priority was for an additional full-time employee (real estate specialist) in the Real Estate Services department.  I explained the reasons why we needed the employee and I thought a majority of the BOS “got it” and might support my request.  But I was wrong.  Something happened in between my budget review with the BOS and when they made their final decisions on the requests for additional funding.  My top priority did not receive one vote of support from a Supervisor.

In Iowa, the Office of County Auditor, serves and protects two basic rights which differentiate the USA from many other countries.  Those are the right to vote and the right to own property.  Auditors serve as County Commissioners of Elections and County Voter Registrars.  We administer elections and preserve the integrity of the voting process.  We are the official map makers of our counties.  We ensure the names on the deeds are correct.  We ensure that the property description on the deed is accurate.  We preserve the integrity of the real estate records transaction system so that the tax bill goes to the correct person(s) for the correct property.  Our diligence ensures that the property is assessed correctly and taxed correctly.  These are duties of the Auditor.  In Iowa, they are not performed by any other office or officer.

On 1/29/2014, Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson is quoted in The Gazette as saying, “I’m going to make sure he has enough money to do the real thing, but not all the other junk he does.”

At the conclusion of my budget review on 1/17/2014, the Board voted to reduce my budget by $70K – none of which they referred to as junk.  My budget request for next year is now $14K under the BOS’s and Budget Director’s guideline for my Office.

From FY2008 through FY2013, I returned $1.936M in unspent funds to Linn County’s General Fund on appropriations that never exceeded $2.880M in any given year.

I invest in employees.   I invest in tools that help my employees do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.  I invest in providing better services to residents.  I invest time and money into ensuring my office and all County offices are being good stewards of tax dollars.  I don’t spend money on junk.

Take a look at my budget.  If you find any “junk” in my budget, please let me know.  I can be reached at joel.miller@linncounty.org 

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