Why did DeKalb change its employee numbers going back 10 years?

I was looking up city budgets yesterday and thought that information on numbers of employees would help provide more context for what I was seeing.

My resource for this is the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), not the CAFR itself, but a report appended near the end of the document that’s called “Full-Time Equivalent Employees,” or as I call it, the FTE report.

The FTE report does not tell you how many people the city employed, but it does tell you how many FTEs it budgeted for in each city department during the fiscal year just closed, plus the FTEs budgeted each of nine additional years back.

Imagine my shock when I saw that the FTE report attached to the FY16 CAFR changed all the historical data.

FTE Chart

Each column contains data from one fiscal year’s FTE report. Each row shows you how the data for one year was changed (or not) over time. You can see a couple of corrections that they made in FY09, but nothing like what they did in FY16.

Now, this may be a totally legit thing to do. If so, there’s still the problem of optics. Bad, bad optics. An explanatory note would have been nice. Also, this is an administration that recently refused to go back and analyze TIF data to determine return on investment, but they voluntarily re-calculated FTEs from budgets 8, 9, even 10 years ago? It defies belief.

What doesn’t defy belief — because they are facts — is that city manager Anne Marie Gaura’s employment contract is coming up for renewal, and the new numbers make it look like she hired fewer people during her tenure than previous FTE reports suggested.

Meanwhile, DeKalb’s Financial Advisory Committee is starting work on next year’s budget. They will need to grapple with the fact that the General Fund Personnel category alone, for current budget year FY17, is projected to require $2.4 million more this year than in FY16, while General Fund revenues are expected to grow only $2.2 million over the same time period.

That’s unsustainable. In order to make better budget and policy decisions in the future, we need to know we are using good numbers. The FTE discrepancies must be explained.

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