On Taxes and Budgets
The City Council set the preliminary municipal tax levy this month for the third and fourth quarters of the calendar year, which are the first and second quarters of the fiscal year that begins July 1. All fiscal year municipalities are mandated to set a preliminary tax levy. When the budget passes and the actual tax rate for FY2009 is set, property owners will have already paid in a portion of any increase through the preliminary rate.
The council approved temporary appropriations of $18,060,632 to pay city bills in July, August and September. The temporary appropriations are allowed while the budget process starts. After September, the governing body must each month approve emergency appropriations equal to 1/12 of the prior year’s budget until the new budget is passed. Many times, the budget is not passed until January. This year, it was passed in February.
Meanwhile, the new fiscal year kicks off July 1 with a new finance director in place, but only an acting chief financial officer. Plaintalker asked when the city might get a permanent CFO, but City Administrator Marc Dashield said the title is a tenured position and there are not many CFOs out there to be hired. Former CFO Peter Sepelya, who did most of the groundwork for the budget, retired at the end of 2007.
New Finance Director Douglas Peck is the fifth person in charge of the department since January 2006.
The budget process calls for each division within the city’s three departments to submit their budget requests, which are then subject to the administration’s approval before the proposed budget is given to the governing body. The council’s finance committee makes recommendations and the full council holds budget hearings.
Things that have held up the process in the past have included impending changes in the administration and the need to wait for word on municipal aid from the state. The former happens only every four years, but the latter creates a delay each year.
Plaintalker hopes there are some newcomers or young people who will take an interest in the budget process and join the few old-timers who show up for budget talks. Times are getting tougher and city officials need to hear from the public on fiscal matters. With few revenue sources other than taxes on its housing stock, the city will be facing hard choices on how to spend its limited income.