Albany’s annual budget document is usually about 500 pages long and contains a large amount of information about the City. Interested readers can find the names of the City Council, Budget Committee members, and selected administrative staff on the first page; read the annual budget message following the table of contents; and conclude with a 40-page executive summary before getting into the details of the City’s financial policies and budgets. The following ten facts are selected from the current Fiscal Year 2015-16 budget:
- Albany’s population has grown from 46,610 people in 2007 to 51,270 in 2016, an increase of ten percent.
- During the same ten-year period, budgeted full-time employees have fallen from 406.073 to 390.200, a decline of 3.91 percent. Budgeted full-time employees per thousand residents of Albany have fallen from 8.712 to 7.611, or 12.64 percent.
- The city’s land area is 17.70 square miles.
- The total assessed value of the city is $3.416 billion.
- The City’s legal debt margin (the amount the City can legally borrow) has increased from $59,650,753 in 2007 to $118,345,404 in 2016.
- Total property tax collections have risen from $20,591,504 in 2007 to $25,122,500 in 2016 (projected), an increase of 22 percent. Taxes have not risen by this amount, as much of the increase reflects the value of new construction and inflation.
- The percentage of General Fund expenditures for public safety (police, fire, municipal court) have increased from 81.2 percent in 2007 to 85.88 percent (projected) in 2016.
- Operating expenditures in the Water Fund have increased from $7,647,601 in 2007 to a projected $8,442,100 in 2016.
- Sewer Fund total requirements fell from $40,159,382 in 2007 to a projected $24,079,000 in 2016.
- The City’s total annual budget decreased from $192,518,182 in 2012-13 to a projected $188,088,000 in 2016.
All of the above numbers are taken directly from the budget document, but each contains a much more complex story than what is presented. Our total annual budget, for example, must account for transfers between funds, refinancing of bonds, and a number of other factors that inflate the total without showing how much the City actually paid for goods and services. Too often, critics and defenders alike select numbers to support a point of view rather than to convey an accurate picture of the City’s spending or financial situation.
Albany has a well-deserved reputation for financial transparency; and the best way to fully understand the City’s spending and financial health is to take advantage of the information available in the annual audit, budget document; and daily expense reports available online. I would also encourage anyone who has questions to talk with our finance director or members of his staff. Financial information is necessarily complex, but understanding it does not have to be.