Making sense out of the Atlantic County Budget

Deputy Atlantic County Administrator Diana Rutala

Have you ever heard the stories about how the government spends six-million dollars on a roll of toilet paper? Well as funny as it may sound, it’s no joke! It happens daily and it has been for decades! The following true story de-mystifies the riddle, although remember, we are talking about the government, so don’t expect it to make too much sense!

Before we get started, let me first explain that there are two types of government funds; the “use it or lose it” fund (which is where your taxes go), and the “well-hidden from the public, revolving fund”. So what’s the difference?

Well the use it or lose it fund consists of the budget, which is hashed out between the freeholder board and the county administrator. Each county department is studied to determine what it costs to operate, and that’s what your taxes pay… lol… well at least that was how it was designed. Simply put, if Atlantic County needs $100 a year to run, and there are 100 residents, then each resident pays $1 a year for taxes.

So why is this dubbed “use it or lose it”? Because the county can’t just take tax money from you unless they need it and spend it, so if there’s any money left un-spent, then it’s assumed that the county didn’t need it to operate… Therefore, they won’t get it the following year…. Enter the six-million-dollar role of toilet paper!

Using our previous example; a $100 annual budget, but the county administrator only spent $80 to run the county this year. The freeholder board wants the voters to believe that they’re lowering taxes, so if they find out that there’s $20 left over, then they’ll want the community to get that money back! But there’s little chance of that happening, because coincidentally, Atlantic County Public Works just needed to buy a roll of toilet paper, and guess what? It cost $20. Coincidence indeed!

So now what about this well-hidden revolving fund?

Well that’s easy… kind of. It’s exactly what it sounds like; funds go into it, but whatever Atlantic County doesn’t spend, revolves over to the next year and continues to accrue. So why is it such a big secret? Because the money is obtained from numerous sources, under the condition that the Atlantic County Government will use it to provide services to the community, which they don’t, and therefore, the fund grows at an alarming rate. Then, when the county gets audited, this fund shows as an excess budget, which it isn’t.

Here’s an example; the State of New Jersey gives the Atlantic County Government $100 to buy mosquito equipment, but the county doesn’t buy it. That $100 stays in the county’s account, and it looks like the county has a lot of money left over in their budget, which is typically a characteristic of great management! Right?

The only problem is, that money can only be spent on mosquito equipment, which will never actually be purchased (at least legitimately). If you read the Jersey Leaks article on Superior Court Judge Donna Taylor, then you already know that the Atlantic County Govt. violates the law so that they can control the outcome of all of their civil suits… well then it should come as no surprise they do the exact same thing with their auditors.

Meaning… They hire a firm, which their affiliated with, that will look for what they tell them to look for, and report on only what they allow them to. A good example of this is that every human on the planet believes Atlantic County to be the hub of mismanagement, yet somehow all of their audits are outstanding. Hmmm…

Okay so here’s the true story; an investigator went to Atlantic County’s Deputy Administrator Diana Rutala, and requested that she purchase a piece of equipment, so that Atlantic County could participate in a statewide task force for the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. Diana did not buy the equipment, so Atlantic County was the only county in the State of New Jersey, which did not provide consumer protection to its community.

When questioned why she didn’t buy the piece of equipment, Diana replied, because this is a very long and involved process, and It requires our finance/ treasury department to review all of the departments in Atlantic County, and find out who has an excess. The investigator asked, why don’t we just use the $1,000,000 that the State of New Jersey gave us to buy the equipment with? The deputy administrator replied, because we need to take the money from a department with an excess, or we’ll lose that money, but we’ll never lose those state funds.

So not only did the community get screwed out of consumer protection, but to add insult to injury, the new piece of equipment did show up several months later. It was not purchased using the state funds that were granted… instead, it was purchased using the excess annual budget from the Atlantic County Information Technology Department.

Of course, the equipment was never actually used, and it has long since become an outdated piece of garbage.

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