Thursday, February 01, 2007

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Get In The Water Again - Cue Jaw's Shark Music - DONE Attacks Neighborhood Councils Again!

I was about to post that the on-going war between the Neighborhood Councils of Los Angeles and Lisa Sarno and DONE - the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment - was slowly coming to an end.

We have recently had two civil and professional meetings to plan the DONE NC Congress that will be hold in April. And last Saturday's Mayor's Budget Workshop was also exceptionally well run.

More importantly, we were actually listened to - as opposed to being told what to do - and the actions taken reflected our requests. The Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils Congress, of which I am the chair, was also promised at least one room the entire day to hold our sessions in and it is likely we will have a second room.

The war seemed to be over.

And then... loud shark music.... arrived the now infamous neighborhood council budget email yesterday afternoon.

Actually, it was 8 - EIGHT - emailed attachments in one email sent to us without any warning.

And with zero consultation.

And with zero input on how we wanted to design our own budgets.

Below are the worst of the commands we are expected to blindly follow.

We have been told how we have to spend a minimum of one-half of our own budget and and we have been ordered to fill out a detailed budget a full year in advance. Then we would have to spend ever cent exactly how we budgeted the money a year in advance of our spending it.

This is clearly a move to cripple the independence of the neighborhood councils and it will not be accepted.

Neighborhood Councils should soon begin public discussions about spending priorities
for the fiscal year 2007-08 budget, which needs to be submitted to the Department of
Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) no later than June 15, 2007. In response to the
findings of the recent City Controller’s audit, and in order to better serve stakeholders,
Neighborhood Councils must formulate budgets that allocate funds as follows:

minimum of 25% of Neighborhood Council annual funding ($12,500 of each
year’s $50,000 allocation) must be spent on outreach efforts.

minimum of 25% of Neighborhood Council funds ($12,500 of each year’s
$50,000 allocation) must be spent on community improvement projects.
In response to numerous requests from Neighborhood Council members for the
development of a standardized budget template, a template will be made available on
the DONE website in the funding section. A sample standardized budget is attached for
your reference. Included in the standardized budget template will be a narrative section
in which the Neighborhood Council must explain its budget priorities, including detailed
plans for expanded outreach efforts and community improvement projects that benefit
the entire neighborhood.
Page 2
Your Neighborhood Council’s FY 07-08 budget will be your “roadmap” for the year
ahead, so it must be detailed, thorough, and you need to adhere to it. The Controller’s
audit noted that Neighborhood Council expenditures must directly correlate to budget
line items. As demand warrants (city checks) are requested, the DW forms you submit
will reference these budget line items.
There will be new accounting and budget codes established to track spending. During
the FY 2007-08 budget cycle, operational expenditures will be coded by “100 Series”
items, outreach expenditures by “200 Series” items, and community improvement
expenditures by “300 Series” items. This will simplify the tracking expenditures for all
Neighborhood Councils, as well as expedite the quarterly audit process. By developing
your budget, you are clearly showing your stakeholders how the money will be spent.
Then, you follow through and spend the funds as described in your budget. Finally,
DONE staff will verify that you did spend the funds the way you voted to spend them.

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