Calculating confusion: How the cost of the Seattle conference breaks down

On Monday, a decision was made in the newsroom to break down the costs that the Citizens Police Review Board was requesting to send two representatives to a conference in Seattle. The four day National Association for Civilian Oversight conference is from early morning Sept. 20 to noon on the 23. The Citizens Police review Board was asking for $4,040 to send two people. To calculate the cost of one person attending the conference, a compromise Mayor McDavid had previously suggested, I factored in registration fees, hotel, airfare, car fare, and food. The cost of the conference and the hotel were listed on the conference’s website. To calculate airfare, I chose the cheapest flight out of the Kansas City International Airport on Sept. 19. I assumed that they would return the 23 following the conclusion of the conference. Then, to calculate the cost to drive to the airport form Columbia, I used Mapquest and calculate the MPG for an average car based on The Bureau of Labor Statistics findings. The total for these costs was $1415.92 per person, leaving $604.08 for food and other expenses.

After a comment from Tom Warhover, executive editor at the Missourian, recalculated the costs of carfare based on the city reimbusement code of 50 cents per mile, I began to calculate a new cost.

Then, Ellen LoCurto-Martinez, boardwoman for the Citizens Police Review Board returned my phone call. After asking her to break down the $4,040 requested, she realized that a mistake had been made in the request to City Council. The Board meant to ask for $4,044, a $4 difference. She was then able to break down that figure per person:

-$350 for registration
-$500 for airfare
-$920 for hotel stay (four nights)
-$252 for food ($42 per day, so six days are budgeted)

After her phone call, I went over her numbers and realized that the amount requested for food allotted six days, not five. I called her again to ask if the board planned to stay until Sept. 24, or if the calculation was a mistake. Martinez realized that this was another mistake. The board only needed to ask for money to cover five days of food, not six. She said that she would inform City Council of the changed at the council meeting. When I asked her about carfare, she was not sure how that would factor in.

At the council meeting, Martinez spoke on behalf of the board. She said that the board would now like to ask for $3,600 to send two boardmembers to the conference, and still wanted $2000 for printing purposes.

Mayor McDavid, who stressed in his campaign platform that the city needs to cut back on spending, still felt the request was “excessive.” He did agree, however, to send one person to the conference for no more than $2,200 and grant $1000 for printing. In a 5-2 vote, the amended request was passed. So, the board can send one member to the conference with fund from the city.

I am unsure of how Martinez calculated the $3,600 request she made at the meeting. However, the amount council granted is more than the $1,800 it would cost to send one person, according to her request.

For any questions on my calculations or the amendment, please feel free to ask. I would be happy to clear up and confusion.

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