Considering a citizen budget option

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Lisa Goudy
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(From left): Matt Noble, city manager, Brian Acker, director of financial services, and Jody Hauta, director of parks and recreation are seen at the June 16, 2014 executive committee meeting.

Executive passes changes to the budget process

For anyone who ever wanted to adjust a budget, that might just be an option this year.

Brian Acker, director of financial services, said city administration is considering including a citizen budget option.

“It allows the general public to go in and basically adjust the budget,” he said. “You have some key things in your budget and you’re able to say, ‘We’d like to see you put more on roads and, doing that, maybe a little less here.’ We’re anticipating that type of public input process.”

There has been lots of good feedback from communities that have used it.

“They’ve really gotten a lot of input compared to the traditional methods like we’ve used for budget input,” said Acker. “It does give you that period to get people’s input.”

At Monday’s executive committee meeting, the committee approved the presentations of the preliminary operating and capital budgets to take place together in December every year.

“There is a lot of potential for savings in terms of the presentation of the budget, the public input process and the approval process,” said Acker. “As we found this year, a lot of the budgets are intertwined and interconnected so there is a real benefit in that.”

Historically, the city has had three separate budget processes in the fall — operating, capital and equipment reserve. Usually one of the budgets wasn’t presented until another one was essentially completed.

New to the 2014 budget year was a two-day budget review session for the operating budget and a one-day review session for the capital budget.

“With our operating and capital budget processes we did see some significant improvements,” said Acker. “Our new city manager brought some very good ideas in terms of some of the things that we did in terms of budgeting and this is trying to build on that.”

Also by combining the budgets, the annual mill rate increase will be decided in one process instead of the two-step process this year.

It is expected that with the combination of the budgets presented in December of each year, the budgets will be approved by the end of January the following year.

Coun. Dawn Luhning suggested having the budgets brought to council in November instead.

“In December you have Christmas holidays and it seems we never come back until the middle of January and then people are on holidays,” she said. “To me, I think if we’re going to combine them I’d prefer to see them pass before the end of the year.”

Acker said the workload is still the same on the departments and it is a “very compressed period” to have the documents ready. That is also a good period for public consultation over December and January.

“Normally what will happen is the departments have to meet with department heads with their subordinates creating an initial budget to be reviewed by them,” added Matt Noble, city manager. “Then it has to come to the city manager for review before it gets assembled to come to council to make sure that all of our directors are in a position to justify the budget.”

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

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