More Charting of the CAFRS: General and Special Revenues and Expenditures

As in the last post, I’ve gathered year-over-year information using City of DeKalb’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFRs) as reported to the Illinois Comptroller.

All governments have to do CAFRs and we ordinary citizens are supposed to be able to understand them. As a layperson I try to figure out why and how the numbers vary year to year, and over time this tactic teaches me. CAFRs also provide details on debt and other long-term liabilities.

Let’s start with an updated chart that will look familiar to you if you follow my budget and CAFR posts.

To summarize, we enjoyed several years of steady growth followed by a few “stumbles.” The “stumbles” actually started out as large falls but the city “caught” itself with a couple rounds of tax hikes and reductions in force. Afterward, DeKalb patted itself on the back, called itself recovered and proceeded as before — spending-wise, anyway.

Below I’ve lopped off the first few years of our General chart because a smaller range of numbers increases its sensitivity. Behold the trajectories:

I was going to put up the projected numbers for FY2014 as well, but the current budget predicts a small surplus that is probably not realistic in view of spending on the police station, which I’ve begun to track. If I were a wagering woman I’d bet the General Fund will end up bailing out deficits in one or more of our capital funds, bringing the pink line closer to the blue line than the budget suggests.

Anyway, there are other categories of revenues and expenditures besides General. Below are those classified as Special.

Yes, something weird happened in FY2012. That something was a sudden reclassification of TIF revenues from Capital to Special and there happened to be a bit over $10 million involved. Let’s take TIF back out for the sake of clarity.

There now. Special Revenues still had an extraordinary year in FY2012. The increase was primarily because more in state and federal grants came in than the year before. But you can also see that these stimuli were temporary.

That’s the problem with special revenues. You can’t count on them to be there to cover increases in your fixed costs. We’d best regard them as surprise treats. Yet, recent budgetary successes have depended on annual transfers of TIF funds, despite their expiration dates.

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