Mid-year budget review process underway

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The Westminster City Council is beginning their review of the 2014 city budget. A public meeting on July 8 gave council and the community a quick look at some potential service modifications within the budget.

The 2013-2014 budget was adopted in October 2012 and as part of a two-year budget, a mid-year review process is standard procedure. In November, voters approved a city charter amendment allowing the city council to adopt a formal two-year budget. City manager Brent McFall said the recent public meeting was meant to provide an opportunity for the public to give council input on the budget as council considers any revisions for the adopted 2013-2014 budget.

“This is not a full budget process. We don’t start over again,” he said. “The process gives council a few times to review the budget and receive any public comment on budgetary matters anyone may want to make.”

The adopted 2014 budget totals $175,458,142 and includes funding for all services and programs provided by the city government to Westminster residents and business. Brent said based on what he knows at this point, it appears the city will be able to fully fund operations for the city in 2014 at the projected level.

“Sales and use tax continues to be the major source of funding for the general fund providing 64 percent of general fund operations,” he said. “I also want to point out that the city only receives about four percent in revenues from property taxes. Majority of those revenues go towards the counties and school districts.”

During McFall’s budget presentation he pointed out three areas of potential service modifications to be considered for the 2014 budget. The first modification is the post-snowstorm street sweeping process, which according to McFall, continues to present the city with budget challenges. Staff is proposing to discontinue post-snowstorm sweeping, which currently costs $76,000 per year.

McFall said staff is investigating the possibility of adding one citywide sweeping rotation, which would be performed during an appropriate time in the winter and would cost an estimated $34.250.

“After factoring in the additional sweeping rotation, the city could receive a $41,678 savings from the discontinuation of post-snowstorm sweeping, helping to address budget pressures,” he said.

A second are of modified service up for consideration is increasing in-service availability of the reserve “fifth” ambulance for the fire department. McFall said staff is evaluating funding $15,000 to $20,000 to allow the fire department to fund 21-28 full-time shifts of overtime and allow the needed staffing to operate the fifth medical unit full time, with no additional staffing proposed.

“Measureable benefits have been realized when this ‘fifth’ medic unit is in service, most notably a reduction in response times,” he said. “Approximately 70 percent of all emergency calls the fire department responds to are EMS-related involving a medic unit.”

The final service area being considered for modification is open space management and acquisitions. McFall said staff is evaluating a shift in the open space program, working towards a more proactive open space management program and a more strategic land acquisition program focusing on critical corridors to help connect community and regional trails. Staff is considering developing a comprehensive open space management plan that better addresses maintenance needs.

McFall said with the city nearly reaching the goal of 15 percent of city land as open space, it causes staff to look at where the city needs to shift their resources.

“Besides turning lands into their native status, part of our open space program is maintenance including keeping the lands free of trash and debris and keeping up with the impacts of nature, such as nuisance weeds and prairie dogs,” he said.  “This maintenance requires ongoing attention and that is why staff is looking at a master plan that they would be presented to council in preparation for the 2015-2016 budget.”

Final recommendations on all the service modification areas will be submitted to council for review in early September. During the July 8 meeting, no public comment was made on the budget, but another public meeting on Sept. 9 will give residents another opportunity to give input to council. Residents can also communicate with councilmembers through e-mail and phone calls. Council and mayor contact information can be found on the city website at www.ci.westminster.co.us.