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Monday, October 29, 2007

Candidate Question #6 Budget

Question#2: Budget

For years the city’s annual budget was planned and discussed over a few weeks. Devise a 12 month budget development program.

Spending the last sixteen years in senior executive management positions with multi-million dollar budgets I will bring a new perspective to city finances and find ways to reduce the cost of providing services through increased efficiency and innovation. We will shape an Administration that works harder and smarter on behalf of its residents.

To improve fiscal management of the city we will:

§ Develop a multiple year budget for better financial planning and to avoid last minute decisions that react to a financial crisis rather than using solid financial planning to avoid the “December crisis” in our city.

§ Work with the City Treasurer to consolidate all finances under one individual for more effective cost tracking, revenue forecasting and avoid duplication of effort.

§ We will hold finance meetings each month and invite financial leaders and residents to attend and participate.

§ Create an efficiency task force made up of residents, business leaders and city
employees to analyze city services and assist the city in finding new, more-efficient ways of providing services. The task force will conduct a fact-based approach to identifying best practices used in other cities and how they can be incorporated into our city.

§ We will provide incentives to departments that find new ways to cut costs and improve efficiency. Our financial problems can not be addressed from the pockets
of our resident, we must find ways to decrease the size of government and increase the efficiency of services.

§ Decrease the physical size of city hall by at least one floor creating better
communication among staff, easier access for residents and more income for the
city with the additional rental space to the private sector.

§ Better utilization of existing software, or new software, to make sure that all
departments are interfacing to increase the collection percentage of money owed
to the city and to capture money that may be outstanding in other departments.

§ More emphasis on obtaining federal and state grants to fund city projects, training and equipment. We will utilize an experienced grant writer to train city
department heads on researching, writing and obtaining grants.

I can't believe that in all the years the city has been run, nobody has come up with a simple idea such as this, but here goes. Make quarterly meetings mandatory. The quarterly meetings will need to be like this; By the end of December, the treasurer and controller will have met with ALL department heads simultaneously, to have their departments current books in order, and find what is lacking or exceeding, and where. By the end of January, the treasurer and controller will meet with city council and have both basic and detailed breakdowns of each department, and proposed expenses for the following quarter, and an update on where they are within their budgets.

The mayor will be involved with the earlier meetings, and have proposed budgets at the same time as the treasurer and controllers reports. In a meeting or two, taking slightly more time than usual, we should be able to approve a budget for the following year, because we should already be working off of a budget approved at least one year prior to this year.

The basic breakdown will be for the layperson's benefit. The detailed version will be for anyone that wants to do a detailed review of any particular department.

First, I think the city’s fiscal year should be changed to July 1 to June 30, to be in line with state and federal government. In order to effectively budget for 12 months, you really need to have a two-year plan, with a line budget for the first year, and projections for the second. You also need to have a five-year capital plan. Budgeting with both the short and long term in mind will make the annual budget easier and (more importantly) more accurate, and would help to avoid a last-minute scramble each December.

First, I believe that the budgeting process should be over a two year period. This provides for better planning within departments. The Treasurer and/or Director of Finance should develop projections for revenues during that two year time period. The impact of these revenues can then be discussed with all interested parties. As an example in this last budget the increase of parking meter rates was a revenue stream that had limited review by individuals impacted by this increase. As a result the impression that the city is just trying to get money in any way it can was reinforced, several people were upset, and the parking meter rates stayed the same. Discussion of proposed revenue increases or decreases should be presented with time to determine the full impact of the move and to provide the opportunity for input from all those affected by the move.

In the budget process an initial budget for the following year and an overall departmental and individual revenue budget for the second year should be developed within the first 3 months of the new year. This budget would then be published and public comment in the form of hearings would be heard over the next 3 months. The council, mayor’s office and the Treasurer/Director of Finance would develop a revised budget based on public input and updated projections of revenues and expenses for the current year. This process would occur over the next 3 months. A revised budget would then be available near the beginning of September at which time another round of public hearings would take place. This round would be shorter than the first round because it can focus on the changes made to the initial budget. Following the public hearings the mayor, city council, and the Treasurer/Director of Finance would again meet and develop a final budget that would be adopted during the month of December.

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