** Cross posted from Suffolk HRTP**
On Monday, April 15, after spending the weekend before pouring through the budget documents that were released online, Co-Chairman Janet Gurwell & Vice-Chair Lorraine Yuriar (that’s me) met with the city’s Budget Director, Anne Seward, in an attempt to learn more about the numbers. Interesting tidbit: Janet & I were the ONLY citizens to meet with Ms. Seward.
We learned that Ms. Seward does indeed have that line-item budget we wanted, it’s just hidden under the dubious title of “working papers.” She will show & tell you anything you want to know from the stack of papers and files, however. All you have to do is contact her, either by phone [514-4006] or in person.
Ms. Seward is very knowledge, efficient, and an overall nice lady. It truly is a pity that more citizens didn’t take her up on her numerous offers to meet up and discuss the budget. She was able to answer all of our questions thoroughly, and even explained some items we had not considered. She is very good at her job, and has been working hard to not only keep track of city spending habits, but to clean up the budget and get expenses allocated properly.
The biggest example of this comes in the IT expenses this year. We all discovered what a mess the IT department was in when the Suffolk News Herald did their expose on the office. It should come as no surprise that their billing practices were equally messy. This year, Ms. Seward took over IT’s billing. Where the city’s IT costs used to be distributed evenly across all city departments, she has changed that this year. This year, Ms. Seward has worked hard to sort out actual IT expenses per department, and only charge each department for what they actually use. The result – on the budget document we can find online, several departments appear to have massive increases in their IT expenses, while other departments have drastic savings in theirs. Ms. Seward has been working on cleaning up more and more of the budget since she took over the job a few years back. This year, the expense areas she focused on cleaning up were IT, Fleet, Copier, & Utilities.
In Utilities, there was no one person keeping track of what each department was spending, but there is now. Ms. Seward has changed the way the city handles each department’s utility bills, by having each department forward their bills to a certain person. It is now that person’s job to keep an eye on each department’s utility usage, to look for usage patterns and potential savings.
As a result of our meeting, we were able to come up with a list of ways the city could potentially reduce spending in an effort to stop the tax increase & water bill increase.