Budget discrepancies attributed to computer error

Friday, January 6, 2006

By Ralph Pokorny

Nevada Daily Mail

Computers and computer programs are great when they work right; however, when some thing goes wrong and you do not catch it, you can be in big trouble.

That is what city finance director Ron Chandler says happened to the 2006 city budget that was distributed to city council members and posted on the city's Web site for the Jan. 3 council meeting.

The budget was created on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that was a copy of the same spreadsheet that was used for the 2005 budget, which worked without complication in 2005. The system apparently worked correctly until sometime in late December when, Chandler says, it developed a problem, causing the 2006 budget to show a $5 million deficit in the water and sewer fund. This error was in the copy of the budget that the city council members were provided and was posted on the city's Web site for the Jan. 3 city council meeting. The error was not present in the budget that was posted on Dec. 14. The difference between the two budgets led the council to postpone voting on the budget until it could be clarified.

"Some of the files were corrupted and wrong," Chandler said.

Chandler said that he had printed a hard copy of the budget for his use that did not have the errors.

Based on the printed copy, he assumed that the information in the spreadsheet was correct and did not check the version that was provided to the council and posted on the Web site. That is a mistake that he emphatically said would not be made again.

Councilman Jim Rayburn said that when the councilmen compared their copies of the budget with Chandler's printed copy the discrepancy was obvious. Chandler said that it took him most of the day Wednesday to fix the problem. While he was working on it he found some other errors in the spreadsheet that needed to be corrected.

"It's cleaned up now," he said, adding that he still needed to make a couple of updates to the tourism board's budget.

The corrected version of the budget should be posted on the city's Web site, www.nevadamo.org, within the next couple of days as an Adobe PDF instead of an Excel spreadsheet, he said.

"Once it''s a PDF it can't change," Chandler said.

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