This week’s city council public session revealed that the city’s current electricity costs exceed the finance department’s projections by $4.2 million. When council questioned Finance Director Tantri Emo about the cost overruns, she blamed it on usage and streetlights.
If the city can’t accurately project electricity usage or increased costs incurred from putting up streetlights, how can taxpayers feel confident in their overall budgeting process?
$4.2 million may not be much in a city with a budget that exceeds $5 billion, but cost overruns like this add up, particularly when they go unnoticed by council and don’t get the oversight they warrant.
Council Member Mike Laster put it best, “If we’re budgeting correctly, we’re anticipating what our electricity needs are going to be and if we’re going to expand service in some area, we’ve presumably anticipated that cost too, right?” He continued,”If we’re budgeting for expenditures and we’re not anticipating increased usage because we put in new lights or whatever it is, then we’re not budgeting correctly.”
Emo said she would bring a full accounting of the cost overruns to council, but this instance raises concern over what other areas are being budgeted incorrectly and to what extent.