Finance Update – Credit Card Payments, Community Funding and the Budget

Summers in Salida are busier than ever with events and public improvement projects. In the midst of all this, it is also time for staff to start planning for the next year. As we kick off the annual budget process, we would like to make sure the public knows about the budget timeline as well as a couple of changes implemented in the finance department.

  • Online Payments – Introduced late last year with a new financial software system, we are encouraging customers to take advantage of the convenience of paying water and sewer bills, parking tickets and minor municipal citations online with a credit card. The time savings is an advantage to both parties, but the processing company charges transaction fees of $1.25 for utilities and $2.50 for court payments. Also, since 2009, customers have had the option to pay utility bills by ACH, which remains free of any additional fees.
  • Community Funding Grants – For the 2015 budget year, we revised the process for evaluating and awarding these funds. The City supports the community by providing resources to non-governmental organizations for special projects that supplement municipal government operations and enhance quality of life. Applications for support will be considered during two funding cycles with due dates of August 31st and April 30th. Requests will be brought to the city council only during these open funding cycles. Updated forms are saved on the Administration page of our website.

Similar to the criteria we use to evaluate community funding requests, other aspects of the budget process involve internal scrutiny and objective review. Every year, more requests for funds are made than can possibly be accomplished with the existing revenue sources and staffing that is needed to manage new projects and continue maintaining existing assets. Accordingly, we need to start early and refine the list of department requests to the highest priorities before starting work sessions with city council and interested members of the public.

The department heads are now reviewing 2014 mid-year accomplishments and determining 2015 priorities to recommend for City Council approval. Over the next month, staff will meet to further vet out perceived needs and priorities for each functional area of the City’s operations.

Now is the time for organizations seeking financial support from the City in 2015 to submit community funding requests for the first cycle. During the regularly scheduled work sessions starting in September, the City Council will review and prioritize requests from department heads as well as those from outside organizations seeking funds through the community request process. Work sessions are held on the first Tuesday and third Monday of each month starting at 6:00 pm. They are open to the public and broadcast on cable channel 10.

We follow the Colorado Revised Statutes for all budget requirements. In order to meet the legal deadline of October 15, a presentation of the proposed 2015 budget is scheduled during the regular meeting that falls before that date, which this year is on Tuesday, October 7th.  At that meeting, a public hearing date will be set and then information about the budget will be published. Council must approve the budget before the end of 2014.

Setting a budget always involves some difficult choices. Most available dollars are dedicated to basic municipal services – fire and police protection, public works, land use, planning and administration. Many residents and business owners also place a high value on cultural and recreation amenities.

Expenditures approved in the budget should reflect the values and priorities of the community. It is our goal to use all resources for the greatest long-term good of the City. We encourage citizens to speak to their council representatives and attend the public meetings so that broad community input can be considered in the budget process.