JC budget process altered this year

The budget process for the 2014 fiscal year in Jefferson City will see some long-awaited, and long-discussed, changes.

The Jefferson City Council will begin meeting twice a week to discuss the 2014 budget July 29. Mayor Eric Struemph presented his proposed budget last week, detailing few changes from City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus’ proposed budget, which was released in May.

Struemph’s budget proposes an elimination of JCTV funding, a savings of $110,000, but noted he included enough money to pay for a part-time position running the cameras in the council chamber in City Hall, which will enable the city to continue streaming council meetings. Interim Finance Director Bill Betts said $5,000 was put in the budget under information technology part-time salaries for that position.

Also included in Struemph’s budget is $130,000 for a full-time finance director. Betts has been serving in the interim since January, and the city has not had a full-time director in almost one year.

The City Council will begin meeting next week to discuss the mayor’s proposals and either approve or change them before the budget moves forward. The July 29 meeting will focus on council approval of anticipated revenues for the 2014 fiscal year.

Both Nickolaus and Struemph have predicted declining revenues for the next fiscal year, with an estimated $28.8 million in general revenue for 2014, a nearly $5 million drop from the current fiscal year.

Once the council has agreed on and approved estimated revenue for 2014, discussions will begin on the mayor’s proposed budget before going through each department’s budget.

This year, the budget process will see the return of what is known as the “pink sheets,” which show council members what was requested by each department director, regardless of whether the city administrator or mayor chose to fund it.

Another long-discussed change seen in the budget process is the inclusion of actual numbers from the past five years, as well as year-to-date figures. In the past, the council only saw budgeted figures, not actual expenditures or revenues, which often led to inaccurate budgeting.

Second Ward Councilman Shawn Schulte, the budget committee chairman, said another change for the budget process will be how council members present proposed added expenditures.

In the past, the City Council has used what’s called the “parking lot” for council members to propose added expenditures or cuts not included in the proposed budget for discussion.

This year, Schulte said any council member who wants to propose an added expenditure should be prepared to offer an “offsetting credit” to show where the money will come from.

“You ought to have an idea of where we’re going to get the money from,” Schulte said. “(Otherwise) we could end up with a mess at the end.”

In an April meeting of the Finance Committee, two council members discussed the idea of evaluating the proper level of staffing at City Hall, in part because of the amount the city anticipates saving each year from vacancy savings. Those savings come from not filling a paid position at City Hall.

Betts said the council has not discussed staffing levels with him and he is unsure of whether that discussion will happen during this year’s budget process.

“I’ve not heard anything on that,” Betts said.

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