2014 budget process begins
October 4, 2013
By Christina Corrales-Toy
The 2014 budget season officially began in July when city staff members presented a five-year financial forecast to City Council members at a budget retreat.
Boosted mainly by incoming development revenue, and improving sales tax funds, city finances appear relatively sound for the short-term future.
In fact, city Finance Director Christine Olson projected a budget surplus for 2014, the first such occurrence since City Manager Rob Wyman had been appointed in 2010, he said at the retreat.
“This is the first year that things are looking really good,” Olson said at the retreat.
By 2016, though, expenditures will begin to exceed revenue in the general fund, according to the forecast.
Wyman likened city finances and operations to a three-legged stool. All cities have property and sales tax as two of the three legs, and most use something such as a utility tax as their third.
The city of Newcastle has used development revenue as its third leg, a risky move considering the lack of long-term stability it yields. And as Wyman noted, the stool gets wobbly if one leg isn’t as strong as the others.
“We’ve always done it with development revenue as our leg, so when that fell apart several years ago, or disappeared, it was doom and gloom,” he said. “Now that it’s picked back up again, and really quickly, it’s great, but it’s only for a few years.”
Despite the immediate positives, Wyman said it was still important to consider what the city will do once development slows down.
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2014 budget public hearings
“I don’t see any problem adopting the ‘14 budget, but we need to keep the pressure on about ‘16, ‘17, ‘18, ‘19, those years, and start to make some decisions now of what we’re going to do then,” Wyman said.
The 2014 budget process is now charging ahead in earnest, after the city released its budget-planning calendar at the Sept. 17 council meeting.
The City Council will review the preliminary budget in a study session prior to its Oct. 15 regular meeting. During the 7 p.m. general meeting, the public will also have the first of three opportunities to comment on the budget.
Review of the preliminary budget is set to continue at the council’s Nov. 5 meeting. That night, the council will host its second public hearing about the budget. There will also be a public hearing about city revenue sources.
The third public hearing about the budget is Nov. 15. Adoption of the final budget is currently scheduled for Dec. 3.