Jan Schmidt – Finance and Administrative Services Director
At their last meeting, the City Council set November 17th as the date for a public hearing on the 2009 City budget. In the meantime, City staff and council will hold a number of work sessions to review and refine the preliminary budget numbers. We’ll be discussing the underlying estimates and assumptions in an effort to ensure the most important activities and critical projects receive funding. With current financial resources, some tough decisions need to be made over the next several weeks to bring the budget into balance for the next fiscal year.
For a little background information, the City is required to follow rules set by the state in the Colorado Revised Statutes regarding budget deadlines and a public hearing process. Council must be presented with a budget by October 15. They are required to set a public hearing date, publish specific information and then ultimately approve the budget before the end of the current fiscal year.
We welcome the participation and input from other residents regarding the use of budget funds, sources of revenue, planning assumptions, prioritization criteria and other considerations that determine the City’s budget.
Planning assumptions will include the rate of expected inflation for goods and services purchased by the City, the increase or decrease in sales tax revenue, volume of the demand for municipal services that users must pay to receive, future interest rates, etc. Based upon these assumptions and the level of fixed costs in the budget, staff will make recommendations to council about the variable or discretionary areas of spending. Priorities are based on a number of factors – public safety, benefits to the community, avoidance of future capital spending and future cost savings to name a few.
This year, the future seems to have more uncertainties than usual. Volatility in the capital markets and economic uncertainties make the budgeting process difficult. For example, will the economy adversely affect Salida’s sales tax revenue or will current trends continue? In the General Fund, the most significant single source of City funds is sales tax revenue, 44% of which is used for capital projects, expenditures, and related debt payments. The remaining sales tax revenue helps to support basic government activities including public safety services provided by the police and fire departments, operations of the municipal court system, maintenance of streets and other public works activities, planning / community development, recreation offerings, and administration. The outcome of ballot question 2A will also significantly affect the final budget for basic infrastructure needs just as 2B will affect future spending levels for various recreation attractions and amenities. (If you are not familiar with the tax measures on the ballot, please call City Hall at 539-4555 or visit the City’s website for facts to evaluate before casting your vote.)
Every year, the City receives requests from members of the public and local organizations to fund various projects. We hear lots of great ideas. Unfortunately, there are more good uses for public funds than the money to go around.
The upcoming council work sessions are open to the public. Dates and times will be posted at City Hall and published in the paper. The public hearing is the officially required forum required by statute to receive input. However, residents can also call City Hall or email staff anytime.
Expenditures approved in the budget should reflect the values and priorities of the community. That is why we want to hear your voice about what is important to you. It is our goal to use all resources for the greatest long-term good of the community.