Action needed on ‘phantom FTEs’

Action needed on 'phantom FTEs' by the Watertown Public Opinion Members of the state Joint Appropriations Committee, the group which oversees the state budget, may begin cracking down on a long time method some departments use to take advantage of and pad their budgets.

They call it �phantom FTEs� and basically it�s a simple practice of leaving open positions unfilled and using the money saved for other purposes. (An FTE is a �full time equivalent� and represents the number of full and part time workers).

The budgeting of unknown FTEs as it appears to be happening at the state level is an unfortunate use of tax dollars.

Take into account every business has a built in cushion when it comes to FTEs. It�s common and not too hard to understand: a businesses normally will budget at 100 percent FTEs � meaning all necessary positions filled each day of the year. But with turnover and open positions that may take several weeks to fill during a year, the actual expenses wind up in the 98 percent to 99 percent range of actual budget.

But there are differences in what is happening at the state level. First of all, the state is working with tax money and therefore should be more accountable and present an actual budget that is representative of actual needs.

If phantom FTEs are being used to make ends meet, serious departmental budget work is called for.

Legislators will have a full plate of issues to deal with during the legislative session and phantom FTEs likely won�t be at the top of the agenda list.

But considering the practice indicates that some departments are underfunded and must use slight of hand to make ends meet or some departments are simply preparing misleading budgets, the issue should certainly be closer to the top of the list.

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