Draft Budget Presented to Council

A preliminary 2013 budget was submitted to the city council last week. This article provides an overview of the 2013 budget timeline and the process for considering public comment.

We follow rules in the Colorado Revised Statutes regarding budget deadlines and the public hearing process. Council must be presented with a budget by October 15. At that time, a public hearing date is set and information about the budget is published. Council must approve the budget before the end of the current fiscal year.

Council will review the budget during their next two regular work sessions, which are held on the first and third Tuesdays of each month at 8:30 am. A public hearing is scheduled during the regular meeting on November 20 at 6:00 pm. We plan to continue the public hearing to the December 4th meeting to allow council with time to consider any input before they adopt the budget.

The budget process involves developing standalone budgets for the City’s General Fund, Conservation Trust Fund, SteamPlant Event Center Fund, and the separate water and sewer operations within the Water and Wastewater Enterprise Fund. The City has both general government and business type (or “enterprise”) funds. The government funds are primarily supported by sales taxes and intergovernmental revenue. Enterprise funds are used for business-type activities with user fees and charges that cover costs.

One of the most important parts of the budget process is establishing the highest priorities and goals to achieve in the coming year. In my experience, Salida has never had sufficient funding for all requests received. An objective prioritization process helps ensure available resources are used to achieve what matters most to the council and community members. Priorities are based on a number of factors, such as public safety, benefits to the community, avoidance of future capital spending and future cost efficiencies.

During a work session with the council in August, we established four city-wide goals for 2013.

  1. Maintain and improve Salida’s existing assets;
  2. Do it right and make it last;
  3. Increase pride in the community and confidence in local government;
  4. Invest in employees.

These goals will be considered when prioritizing both capital requests and departmental operating budgets. In addition, all full-time employees will develop specific individual goals for their area of responsibility that align with one or more of these city-wide goals.

After a two-year period of sales tax increases, we are feeling a bit more optimistic about our primary source of general fund revenue, and a 3% increase in sales tax was included in the budget draft. We are also expecting some improvement in development-related revenue based on recent activity. On the expenditure side of the budget, inflation is expected to affect many supplies, utilities and other services we purchase.

The City has been operating with a reduced level of staffing in the community development, police and public works departments. One additional full-time police officer and a community development intern are proposed in 2013. In addition, personnel costs are expected to increase due to a higher total pay package, including an increase in costs for medical insurance and workers compensation.

After evaluating general assumptions and fixed costs in the budget, discretionary areas of spending are considered.

Capital spending is proposed for some routine replacements and one-time projects or purchases. As usual, we had more capital requests than available funds. Staff made numerous cuts and deferrals before presenting a draft budget to the council.

Staff requested funds to begin rebuilding H Street starting at 3rd Street and continuing as far as funding allows in the direction of Highway 50. Council has committed matching funds to continue the Highway 50 enhancement project, for which a $500,000 CDOT grant was secured. We will continue to invest in park improvements. In addition to insurance proceeds for the structure destroyed at Chisolm Park, we have or will apply for grant funding for park improvement projects.

Other capital requests include several vehicle replacements, technology investments software, public safety equipment, way finding signs and building improvements.

We encourage citizens to speak to their council representatives and attend the public hearing in November so that broad community input can be considered as we finalize the 2013 budget.