City employees prepare for the annual budget.
By the time you read this, I hope and pray that we are nearly finished preparing the city’s budget for the fiscal year 2021, which begins on November 1. This article covers the high points of this annual process, from submission of departmental pink sheets to the city council’s adoption of the finished product.
Beginning in April of each year, the leaders of each city department assess the resources their teams may need during the next fiscal year and whether adjustments are needed to any part or parts of their respective budgets. Any new staff member, program, equipment, or vehicle they would like to add to their budget is listed on a separate “pink sheet.”
Each pink sheet describes the proposed new spending item, including its cost and why it’s needed. They are arranged and presented in priority order determined by each department director, meaning that if a particular department’s pink sheets are front-loaded with requests for a bunch of new vehicles, it’s probably not realistic that the salary increases or new services proposed in later pink sheets stand much of a chance of being funded. Department directors can either propose their own offsetting cuts to make room for these new requests or roll the dice and leave it to the budget committee to find the money.
Department budget requests are submitted to the city administrator, who molds them into an overall proposed budget that is delivered to the mayor, who may make her own changes. When the mayor’s approved budget is ready, it is delivered to the budget committee (which includes all 10 members of the city council and is led by the chairperson of the council’s finance committee). This is usually done by early August.
Once the budget committee receives the approved budget, several weeks of hearings begin, and department directors present their proposed budgets to highlight the importance of their pink sheet items. It is also during this time that public comments are permitted. Once these presentations are finished, the committee enters its home stretch, when anything (or nothing much) can happen depending on available revenue and the collective appetite for moving appropriated dollars from one area to another.
Before considering spending requests, we first set our revenue projections for the next year, lest we become tempted to goose sales tax estimates in order to accommodate increased spending desires. When revenue projections are set, adjusted expenditure proposals are shared and debated rapidly, and the proposed offsetting cuts can be either creative or a little nutty, depending on whom you ask.
At the end of all of this jockeying, revenues and expenditures must balance before the budget committee moves its final draft to the council. Ideally, the council’s budget deliberations conclude in time for a vote adopting the budget in mid-September so that city staff has plenty of time to prepare for the beginning of the new fiscal year. When the new fiscal year begins, we relax and look forward to starting the process again in five months!
April: the leaders of each city department assess the resources their teams may need during the next fiscal year
• new staff member(s)
• equipment, or vehicle(s)
Department budget requests are submitted to the city administrator
• creates overall proposed budget
The proposed budget is delivered to the mayor
• mayor can make changes
August: The Mayor delivers her approved budget to the budget committee
• led by the chairperson of the council’s finance committee and includes all 10 members of the city council
Several weeks of hearings begin
• department directors present their proposed budgets
• public comments are permitted
Presentations are finished and anything (or nothing much) can happen
• revenue projections set
• creative/nutty proposals for offsetting cuts
• balance revenues and expenditures
The budget committee moves its final draft to the council
• council’s budget deliberations
• vote mid-September