Infrastructure planning target of budget boost

Westminster plans to hire 13 to improve financial planning and innovation

Posted 7/10/19

Most Westminster residents won’t see a big change when the city adds 13 full time employees later this year but City Manager Don Tripp said the new hires will make the city more efficient, more …

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Infrastructure planning target of budget boost

Westminster plans to hire 13 to improve financial planning and innovation

Posted

Most Westminster residents won’t see a big change when the city adds 13 full time employees later this year but City Manager Don Tripp said the new hires will make the city more efficient, more innovative and provide savings for the city overall.

“What we are going to try and do is get everybody in our organization to think long-term more often and strategically more regularly,” Tripp said. “Government, by its very nature, tends to be very much in the here-and-now. Are we delivering the services today and do we have enough to fund the budget next year? But in the longer term, we need a plan to replace infrastructure.”

City Councilors approved a budget supplement June 24 meeting that adds about $350,000 to the city’s 2019 spending plan an an estimated $2 million per year going forward. That money is meant to come from the city’s sales and use tax revenues.

That will buy the city 13 new employees, mostly in city administration, and will kick off a department reorganization.

“This is an investment in assuring the sustainability of Westminster as a great city and ensuring we are able to maintain our high quality of life in changing times,” Tripp said.

The decision grew out of a 2017 financial sustainability report about city infrastructure needs.

“It reported back to us that we were several hundred million dollars short of funding all the infrastructure needs we’ll have over the next 20 years,” Tripp said. “It showed that we would not maintain enough revenue to do that. And by way, this is a problem most cities in American have right now — underfunded infrastructure — and we did not want to accept poor street, parks, municipal buildings and not enough public safety officials.”

Tripp said the city staff wanted to look at alternatives now, before it becomes a crisis.

“A lot of times, cities tend to not make changes or ask difficult questions until it’s a time of emergency,” he said. “We’re not in an emergency, and in fact we are in great shape — a time of prosperity. But I’ve been in that situation in other cities when we’ve been in an emergency.”

The changes include creating a new position in the City Manager’s office, a Chief Financial Officer as well as three policy and budget analysts. Plans call for combining the city’s current finance office with the budget office to create a new Department of Policy and Budget.

“That Chief Financial officer will run the financial strategies for the city, including all of our financial services operations,” he said. “It also adds a couple of positions in the area of innovation and will consolidate the existing communications in the manager’s office.”

The city also plans to improve their communications, both among staff and with the public with additions to the Community Development office. Those include a Communication and Outreach Coordinator, a lead graphic designer, two digital media specialists and a videographer.

“It really isn’t external communication wholly, it’s internal,” Tripp said. “It’s developing systems in our organization to help our departments become more collaborative and work to create a story about the things they share. There’s a lot of internal communication.”

It should lead to better external communication, too.

“We hope there’ll be a better understanding of issues coming forward from a policy basis,” he said. “For example, we’d like to improve the way we communicate the city budget. It tends to be pretty complicated now and our council packets can be several hundred pages.”

He hopes staff will be able create internet dashboards that will let residents see that information more clearly and quickly.

Another goal is to reduce overall bureaucracy by hiring another Deputy City Clerk. Currently, the city has two deputy clerks that assist the City Clerk.

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