For the first time, City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus is expected to release his 2014 budget draft publicly when he submits it to Mayor Eric Struemph later this month.
Late last month, city staff said the plan was for Nickolaus' budget to be posted online once it is handed over to the mayor, which is a departure from the normal practice. When the move was announced, interim Finance Director Bill Betts said the belief was that Nickolaus' draft was a public document and should be shared.
Nickolaus is expected to have his draft ready for Struemph by May 15.
In years past, the public was able to see the city administrator's budget draft once the mayor revealed his to the City Council. The council, and the public, would then see the city administrator's draft along with the mayor's recommended changes before discussing any changes of their own.
But though no one is arguing Nickolaus' budget isn't a public document, there are concerns about the effects of releasing it so far in advance. The mayor generally does not reveal his budget until late June or July.
Second Ward Councilman and Finance Committee Chairman Shawn Schulte said he is concerned about the impact Nickolaus' budget could have on the public.
"I am concerned that it might create some false expectations, either positively or negatively," Schulte said.
Schulte said Nickolaus' budget simply is a working draft and the first step in a lengthy budget process. Once the mayor reveals his budget, there could be anywhere from one to 100 changes between that and Nickolaus' draft, he said, and the council could make 100 more changes before new fiscal year starts Nov. 1.
"A lot of things could change between May 15 and Oct. 31," Schulte said.
Struemph said he is not sure of the reasoning behind Nickolaus' decision, but emphasized that what is released this month will be Nickolaus' proposed budget and no one else's.
"His is the first phase of the budget," Struemph said.
Multiple messages left for Nickolaus were not returned.