Westminster officials are set to begin working on the 2019-2020 budget, not with numbers or financial forecasts but by finding out what people want. “What we are looking for from the public is what …
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Westminster officials are set to begin working on the 2019-2020 budget, not with numbers or financial forecasts but by finding out what people want.
“What we are looking for from the public is what areas they think we should be focusing and what we should fund,” said Chris Lindsey, Westminster’s policy and budget manager. “There is no staff report, it honestly is just resident feedback.”
City Councilors are scheduled to host their first budget hearing June 11 with a public input session. The city has already started trying to gauge resident’s budget priorities with the annual survey, Lindsey said.
“We take the City Council’s vision, the city’s strategic plan and information from the Citizen Survey to determine priorities — and then we add in public feedback from this meeting on top of that,” he said.
Budget work continues into the early fall.
Overall, the city’s budget is $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.
Lindsey said city staff will summarize the discussions for City Councilors to review. They’ll host a second input session on July 23 and should begin drafting a budget based on council and public comments.
That draft budget should be made public late in August, with the City Council hosting a September public hearing. Councilors are expected to vote on the final budget in October.
Lindsey said he expects staffing costs to continue being a budget driver.
“Our staff numbers were low coming out of the Great Recession, but we added staff in 2017 and 2018,” he said. “I think you’ll see that trend continue. There are still a lot of expectations from the community on our staff and we really want to fulfill those. But we are trying to do it in a financially responsible manner.”
It could include an increase in police staffing.
“One issue there is the length of time it takes to bring a police officer on,” Lindsey said. “There is recruitment, then training at an academy and then training in a field program here. So you can have a certain number of vacancies today but it takes nine months to fill those and get those folks operational. So you need to have a pipeline going.”
Street maintenance — summer and winter— could be another issue.
“According to the citizen survey, our scores for street maintenance and snow removal had gone down a little bit, so we’ll be taking a look at that,” Lindsey said. “We have been trying to put more one-time funding into street maintenance and repaving for the last couple of years, so that could continue.
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