Some appropriation bills – such as the appropriation from DHS that funded the private option plan – get tons of scrutiny before passage.  But most budget bills seem to fly through with little attention or fanfare.  One such bill for the Arkansas Geographic Information Office (GIO) passed with a multi-million dollar typo.

A reader of mine actually pointed it out asking my why the AGIO a small agency with only a handful of employees was getting an appropriation of $61 million for “improvements, updating and initiating automation of the Statewide Parcel Map.”

According to the agency director, Shelby Johnson, there was a typographic error somewhere in the process.

“It was my understanding that somewhere in the process that number was a typographic error between either DFA Budget or Bill Drafting at the Bureau of Legislative Research. After a quick inquiry with DFA Budget, they  advised it would be easier to just let the appropriation bill stand as is rather than amend due to timing,” said Johnson.

The Statewide Parcel Map project is explained on the AGIO website…

In 2010 the State completed a Strategic Business Plan for GIS authored by a national GIS consulting firm. Their findings were that counties lack additional resources to hire or issue conversion contracts to accelerate the conversion work, and so statewide progress has been slow. Counties with few resources either have no mapper or have part-time mappers and often these positions respond to additional duties in the Assessor Office. They observed that without a state mandate and state funding incentive some counties may never complete parcel map conversion.

A key recommendation of the Plan was for the state to implement a funding program to complete parcel mapping where the state would provide partial funding to be matched by county money. The recommendation specifically focuses on parcel polygon map conversion from paper to digital form. The plan was presented to the Governor and the General Assembly Joint Budget Committee in the fall of 2010.

The original appropriation for the project in 2011 was $1,333,300, so $61 million is obviously a huge jump.  Johnson says the appropriation should have been $2,185,000 mainly for capital expenditures for a digital orthoimagery and hardware updates, but he does not know how this turned into $61 million.

“The digital orthoimagery would allow the Assessors and their staff to do more accurate mapping of new improvements and construction,” said Johnson.

It is important to point out that while the appropriation has gone through and is signed into law, this does not mean the money will be spent.  Let’s hope this is a project that comes in WAY under budget.

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Jason Tolbert is the moderator for his opinion blog, The Tolbert Report. He can be reached by e-mail at Jason@TolbertReport.com. Follow him on Twitter: @TolbertReport.