Westminster will tack on another five weeks to review and approve a spending plan for 2021, councilors agreed August 3. “We are in extraordinary times, and there is a reason we have made an …
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Westminster will tack on another five weeks to review and approve a spending plan for 2021, councilors agreed August 3.
“We are in extraordinary times, and there is a reason we have made an emergency declaration,” City Councilor Anita Seitz said.
Councilors normally vote on the final budget in October, timing mandated by the City Charter. Chief Financial Officer Larry Dorr said pushing the final budget vote back to Nov. 30 would give the city more time to review it’s finances and still meet state guidelines.
“It would give us an entire additional month to evaluate and understand potential outcomes from state and federal legislation,” Dorr said.
Westminster’s charter requires the council to adopt the budget by the second Monday in October — Oct. 12 in 2020. City Attorney Dave Frankel said the city’s declaration of an emergency does give councilors some leeway, however.
COVID-19, the quarantines and closing have impacted the city enough to warrant taking more time to craft 2021’s spending plan, Dorr said.
“It has become evident that new and different information is developing quickly as cases change and economic circumstances evolve,” Dorr said. “Because the city is in a state of emergency, the council has the opportunity to consider an extension of the budget deadline by as much as five weeks.”
The impact of COVID and months of closed businesses and quarantine is still being mapped out. A delay would push back
“This would allow for more council review and analysis of all the different inputs and would allow for more time to evaluate new federal stimulus,” Dorr said. “This would allow for more time for the city to respond and adjust to change in state polices and orders.”
Overall, the city’s budget is roughly $270 million per year for all the city’s funds — the general fund from sales tax, utilities from rates and fees and capital spending as well. The city’s draft budget is usually made public late in August.
Nationally, the country’s gross domestic product shrank by a third in 2020 and it will take time to see how that effects local Westminster businesses and consumers, Dorr said. They pay the use and sales taxes that make up the city’s budget.
“This will allow more time for public input,” Dorr said. “We are receiving information from the public and reaching out to the public for input as we go through a budget process in these unprecedented financial crisis. This five weeks extension of the budget would still allow for the adoption within Colorado statutes and appears to be overall in the best interest of the community.”
Councilors said the delay made sense.
“The more information that we can get and that we can digest, the better for us,” Councilor Rich Seymour said. “I’m not one to stray from the charter but, here again, this is an unusual situation. We need to gather as much data as possible, so I would be in favor of extending the budget deadline.”
Westminster normally adopts a new budget every two years, but Councilors already opted to prepare a one year budget for just 2021 to get a better understanding of the financial and community impacts of COVID-19 before considering the 2022 budgets and rates. Decisions on 2022’s spending plan will be put off until 2021, according to the city.
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