Each year we spend quite a bit of time from July through September hashing out the budget for the fiscal year that starts on October 1st. This year is no exception. We’ve had a couple of budget workshops. Deadly dull doesn’t begin to describe wading through department budget details in meetings that last for hours. The second workshop started at 6:00pm and finished up about 10:15pm. There is only so long that you can stare at budget sheets before your eyes start to glaze over. If you suffer from insomnia, I can recommend checking out the proposed 2017-2018 budget.
The good news is that we are well on our way to working out all the details. The 2016-2017 millage rate was 9.15 mills. The proposed millage rate that will appear on the “Truth In Millage Rates” (TRIM) notices that are about to go out has been set at 9.05 mills. No matter what we do over the next six or seven weeks, the 2017-2018 millage rate will be lower than this year’s rate. We’re actually targeting a millage rate below 9 mills as we continue to reduce the tax rate as property values slowly rebound.
Street light and stormwater fees are proposed to go up modestly again this year, allowing us to continue to make street lighting better and flooding issues less of a problem in the future.
New this year is a paving management plan that will provide annual paving assessments city wide to cover an aggressive program to fix up streets, particularly residential streets. These assessments will be a fraction of those that folks have received from the current system. Unlike last year’s proposal, this plan provides an adjustment for folks who recently paid to have their streets repaved and the plan isn’t slated to sunset after just five years. The plan is designed to make sure that all the streets are fixed up and maintained on an ongoing basis. All of us on city council greatly appreciate the hard work that the citizens’ advisory committee put in to come up with a fair plan. As we approved the plan, we made it clear that every dollar that is collected for this is to be used to fix up our streets and sidewalks and not to pay for staff. We’ve also designated gas tax proceeds to be applied to this plan as well.
We’ve still got some work to do on the five year capital budget. But, we are well on our way to being ready for the budget hearings that are scheduled for September.
The public hearing on the storm water and street light assessments is scheduled for August 29th. The first public hearing on the budget is scheduled for September 5th, with the second public hearing scheduled for September 25th.
My favorite take away from this year’s budget season? It would undoubtedly be that the library budget is being adjusted to allow for longer library hours on Fridays and Saturdays. Other things that enhance our city are included in the proposed budget. Various fix up grant programs are continued. The popular Banned Books concert series is funded again. The Rec. Center budget has funding to continue their concert series and free movies in the park.
All of this is subject to change, but it looks pretty positive at this point. I’m pleased at where we are in the process and very optimistic that we’ll work our way through the remaining details and adopt a balanced budget well before October 1st.