Budget Fudgeit: Wading through a sea of numbers

Starting out

God bless you if you are able to understand the document called the “Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe FY 2012 Proposed Budget January 30, 2012.”  If you have some training or experience in finance or accounting (and I don’t), you may have some insight into the budget.  I will have to rely on the fact that I am both literate and numerate to help me to establish a beach head on this strange shore.  I am at this time reviewing the figures and trying to reconcile them and discover some rationale behind them.  There are some difficulties in doing so, since they decided to mix the budgets of grant programs, HUD loans, and “predevelopement,” so I will try to dissect them.

Busting down the door

To give some scale to this analysis, I want to use the Town of Mashpee 2010 Annual Report’s proposed 2011 annual budget.  Unfortunately, the 2011 Report is not yet out, but this should work.  The Town of Mashpee, with a population of 14,228 in the latest census, requested a budget of $47,475,436.  On the other hand, The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, with a membership in the 2,000 range, has requested a budget of $30,764,669, about two thirds the town budget for about one seventh the population.  Even more puzzling is the town’s figure of $246,000 for “legal, engineering, and consultants,” while the Tribe’s “professional services” and legal” items add up to $11,356,177.   This is just a sampling.

What we need to keep in mind is that The town runs three schools, maintains roads and infrastructure.  They will respond to emergency calls with police cruisers, fire trucks, ambulances, and the attendant personnel.  The Tribe does none of the above.

Where do we go from here?

Well, of course, we have to demand, and continue to demand,  answers.  The breakdowns of the grant programs are very detailed, but what we need is breakdowns of those big items: legal, professional services, and salaries.  We need to know exactly how much Tribal Council members receive in salaries plus whatever other emoluments and fees they may receive.  We need to have a report like the Town of Mashpee publishes, including a listing of all salaries and payments to individuals as in the Mashpee report, I don’t care if it’s a nickel.  They owe us that.

I will be presenting my findings in a form that ordinary people can understand.  There will be pie charts and side by side comparisons of equivalent salaries and expenses for the Town of Mashpee and the Tribe.  I think I am going to go through a lot of coffee—and fudge