Sunday, March 06, 2011

The IVGID Cutbacks – Once Again it’s Whose Ox is Being Gored

Governments all over the country, at every level from Federal to local are struggling with financial issues. Like almost everyone else, during the boom years of the ‘90’s and part of the first decade of this century, governments took in record revenues and spent in record amounts. Like almost everyone else, governments naively acted like the boom would never end, and like almost everyone else, they are now paying the price for that naivete in the form of shortfalls, debts coming due, and cutbacks.

Naturally, IVGID is no exception to this overdue adjustment. I don’t think that blaming is particularly useful, but if we are to apportion responsibility for the current situation, then the Boards of Trustees from, say, 1995 – 2005 certainly come in for some serious consideration. The IVGID staff and the District Manager don’t make major decisions on their own – everything comes to the Board in the form of recommendations, and it is the Board that makes the call and that sets the budget.

Yet some IV/CB residents seem to be taking the opportunity of the current situation to call (once again) for Bill Horn’s head on a platter and to vilify the honest efforts of the IVGID staff, particularly department heads, to carry out the Board’s mandates. This is both ridiculous and wrong.

IVGID, like any municipal entity, has a large and complex budget. I took a course some years ago called “Finance for Non-Financial Managers” and was astonished to discover that the whole business of finance and accounting was not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. Oh sure, it can be complex, and like any discipline you have to learn the basic rules (called GAAP – Generally Accepted Accounting Principles), some of which seem arbitrary or made up, but once you accept those rules it’s relatively easy to follow the game – not at an expert level, but enough to know if something doesn’t make sense. On that level anyone can sit down with the IVGID budget and see what’s going on.

Then there are experts – in this case called Auditors – whose job it is to look at financial matters on a much deeper level and whose expertise allows them to see disconnects or discrepancies that we lay people would miss. The IVGID budget is audited every year and with the exception of one minor mistake has received full marks for its integrity every time.

Given all that, it makes no sense for people to suggest (and not show any evidence to back it up) that Mr. Horn, Ms Cruz, or anyone else whose job it is to properly manage the budget the Board gives them are mismanaging or mishandling the District’s finances.

The Board spends months each year formulating the District Budget. In this process they hold workshops and public hearings and hear both staff recommendations and the views of those of the public who have the commitment and what my mother used to call the sitzfleisch (not really translatable, but sitz is “seat” and fleisch is “meat”) to sit through the hours of mind-numbing number crunching, and they then adopt the budget they come up with in an open meeting with plenty of public comment, so while you may not agree with their decisions or their priorities, it’s disingenuous of critics to accuse the Board of not being transparent.

In all likelihood this year’s budget brouhaha will come down to whose ox is being gored. It’s possible that a coalition of second-home owners and others who are interested only in reducing their expenses will succeed in intimidating the IVGID Board into cutting programs and cutting back overall until all IVGID does is water, sewer, garbage, and minimal recreation. It’s even possible that, now that we’ve lost an excellent golf manager, they will succeed in driving away the General Manager and his senior staff. If they do, those of us who care about this village being more than a retirement community of second-home owners will be the poorer for it. It’s up to us to make sure that doesn’t happen.

And a note to my loyal detractors – telling me I don’t know what I'm talking about without offering anything to factually contradict what I say is really not an argument that’s likely to gain traction.


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