As Council Prepares to Review Proposed Budget, a Reminder to Look Ahead Sooner Than Later

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At 9 this morning, City Manager will present to Mayor Mike Rawlings and the city council the FY2011-12 budget first shown to media Thursday afternoon; watch Suhm's presentation here, during or after. And: The entire 571-budget is available here for those interested in taking longer, harder looks at proposed additions and subtractions, not to mention such things as debt service and general obligation debt ... and, surely, there are one or two of you willing to put an abacus to those figures. (I highly recommend the appendices.)

Budget town halls begin this week as well (a list follows), though don't expect the fireworks that accompanied last year's meetings with council reps, which ended with a tax hike not on the table this go-round. Suhm said last week, "I think it's a good budget," in part because it allows for the hiring of 200 new police officer and fire-rescue workers without a tax hike, while the most significant cuts involve shuttering a handful of swimming pools and laying off 100 city employees (while also cutting back on the number of mandatory furlough days).

But that's this year; what about next? Because on the same day Suhm went in front of the media, the stock market tanked amidst fears that a rebounding economy's just an illusion and that was passes for good news these days is just a little better than the worst news possible. Which brings us to the end of Suhm's presentation today: "Outlook Beyond FY 2011-12."

Suhm said last week she didn't have to cut as much as previously expected because the state took less from the city's coffers than originally expected, while property-tax revenues didn't plunge as far as originally anticipated. And: Sales-tax receipts have seen slight upticks over the past year and then some. So she built her budget 'round that, taking the good news where she could while knowing that soon as the budget's adopted on September 28, it could all take again. She writes:

Despite the City's efforts and the slight economic growth that is indicated locally, the global economy remains fragile which warrants caution.

Financial challenges may continue into future fiscal years and negatively impact the City's budget

  • Further decline in commercial tax base is possible and would reduce property tax revenues
  • Sales tax is a volatile revenue source
  • Expenses such as fuel and power could see further increase

And not only that, but years of living "within our means," a phrase oft-used 'round City Hall, have left things in need of fixin' up all but ignored -- including infrastructure issues no doubt exacerbated by, oh, severe ice storms and prolonged droughts and heatwaves. So, yeah, maybe we squeak through this year, she'll remind council this morning -- or, at least, she should -- but next year and the years after could be rough.

Reductions put in place over last few years will need to be restored

  • Reductions such as deferred street and facility maintenance will begin to have long-term effect if not restored
  • Restoration of components of Police and Fire Meet and Confer agreement will be required in FY13
  • Restoration of civilian employee pay which is still between 1.9% and 4.9% less than in FY10

Infrastructure needs and debt service requirements must be considered as future bond programs are developed

Strategies to help City's budget outlook in future requires consideration

11-12 Budget Town Hall List

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