Tom McGreal | Stratford Court
The City held its budget workshop on May 5th and 6th to review the proposed City budget for 2018 and 2019. The process started with an overview of governmental accounting as a refresher and then launched into a detailed review of City support for Community programs, departmental reviews and fund specific reviews including our list of capital improvement projects.
The two-year budget is designed to maintain City service levels and address the list of priorities identified by the community and prioritized by City Council. It’s a healthy process with a good deal of discussion and debate that results in a revised two-year budget that is reviewed by the Finance Committee and then brought back before Council for final review and approval.
The greatest challenge for City Council is to sort through a list of over forty projects to assess the priority and the timeframe for the projects, the resources and staff needed to manage the projects and finally determine the cost and budget impact. This becomes a significant project management task that will hopefully provide the Council with good information to make these timing, resource and cost decisions.
The Finance Committee reviewed the budget at their May meeting and made some recommendations.
1) Adopt the new reporting created this year for mid-year forecasting and cash flow analysis for improved clarity and transparency.
2) Review and update the metrics used to guide the budget process including the Contingency Reserve and the Finnell Plan.
3) Extend the timeframe for the priority projects to reduce planned spending in the budget and lessen the operational risks of operating at peak staff capacity.
City Council has the delicate balancing act of trying to complete the priority projects, managing spending and maintaining our reserves at levels that can sustain the City during an economic downturn or simply a decline in revenues. Right now we’ve got a healthy contingency reserve, but the budget shows that revenues are soft and spending is up.
The City is now headed towards the completion of the new City Hall, Public Works has just completed an unprecedented list of street projects and yet we still have over 40 projects on the list.
Let’s slow down a bit by extending the timeframe on these projects, reducing the expenditure levels in the budget and holding the line on staffing.