Monday, February 16, 2004
Steamboat Springs city staff has proposed changes to the budget review process that include turning a daylong budget hearing in October into seven meetings held during a five-month period.
The changes come at the request of City Council members and will be presented to the council at tonight's council meeting. The new process would have the council hold separate meetings to look at departmental budgets and capital improvements.
The city thinks the new process would allow for more council and public discussion earlier in the process. In a memo to the council, Finance Director Don Taylor said the process is one recommended by the National Advisory Council on State and Local Budgeting.
The city will not have the exact budget numbers when the meetings begin, but the memo states "there is plenty of discussion, guidance and direction that can take place earlier in the process that will lead to a better annual financial plan."
Months before the final approval of the budget, council will be given budget target levels for each department; a breakdown of personnel, operating and capital costs; staffing levels and the level of services that can be provided under the proposed budget.
Councilman Ken Brenner was among those who urged the council to revise its budget process and allow for more input from council members, residents and employees.
"What we are going to see is a much better look into how the city spends its money," Brenner said. "So everyone has a much better understanding on how these departments' budgets, often $2 million to $4 million or more, how they are prioritized and where the money will go."
The new process proposes the first of the seven meetings June 22. The first meeting looks at financial policies and the second, in July, is a review of the city's employee pay plan.
In August, the revision calls for the council to hold two meetings, one to review the budgets for the police, fire and parks and recreation departments as well as Haymaker Golf Course. The second meeting would look at budgets for public works and the transportation departments.
Two more meetings are proposed for September, one looking at budgets for the Planning Department and general government and a second one for capital projects.
The final meeting is Oct. 5, about the same time as the city's annual budget hearing, and will be for the community support portion of the budget and a public hearing.
For the 2003 budget, the City Council held one meeting in September to look at capital improvements and then an all-day budget hearing in October to review the department budgets and requests for community support.
In the past, council members have raised concerns about the large amount of time spent on deciding where community support dollars should go and the lack of time reviewing larger expenditures.