September 18, 2013
The Civic Federation released its analysis of the FY2010 DuPage County budget yesterday. In it the Federation announced its support for the County’s proposed financial plan due in large part to the County’s ability to maintain operation of its core programs while reducing its property tax levy in the midst of an economic recession. As many governments struggle to make ends meet this year, the County was able to sustain its current operations and workforce. Furlough days for County employees and salary cuts were also avoided.
But how did DuPage County accomplish this feat, especially when so many other units of local governments are taking significant cost-cutting measures to balance their budgets? This was one of the central questions Civic Federation staff asked when conducting the budget analysis. After comparing the approved appropriations for FY2009 to the proposed appropriations for FY2010, we noticed that the County is proposing to reduce its Capital Outlay appropriations by $25.2 million, or 18.9%, below FY2009 final appropriations and it is forgoing a cash transfer to the Capital Improvement Fund that totaled $7.5 million last year. When combined with the elimination of funding for new strategic initiatives in FY2010, which totaled $8.8 million in FY2009, you see that the County is able to maintain its operations by forgoing capital expenses and not funding new programs.
In light of the record-breaking economic recession, these measures are reasonable. However, the need to dip into capital funds to maintain existing operations could be the sign of a larger structural problem that the County may need to address. Relying on the return of higher revenue rates is not a sound management policy. Instead, the County should be looking to right-size its operations so it can live within its means during both up-turns and down-turns. The Civic Federation is recommending that the County employ a performance measurement system to evaluate the effectiveness and usefulness of the services it provides, which will be a key component of its right-sizing process.