The budget process helps navigate the development, implementation, and evaluation of a plan for the provision of services and capital assets. It is also intended to help decision makers with informed choices about the provision of services and capital assets and to promote stakeholder participation in the process. Some of the key characteristics of the budget process are: Incorporates a long-term perspective; Establishes a link to broad organizational goals; Focuses budget decisions on results and outcomes; Involves and promotes effective communication with stakeholders; and Provides incentives to government management and employees.
The Capital Improvements Program
The budget process begins with the proposed Capital Improvements Program, which outlines recommended capital projects over six years. Although the proposal spans six years, only the first year of the CIP is funded, based on a vote of the City Council. Preparing for the CIP begins in July each year. Each City department presents requests for the next fiscal year to the City Manager. Departmental requests and the City Manager's recommendations are then sent to the Planning Board for review. Once the Planning Board reviews the CIP and returns it to the City Manager, the plan is then revised, if necessary, and presented to the City Council in December for review and approval. The City Council votes to approve the six-year CIP and the bond authorization for first-year projects requiring debt financing.
The Annual Operating Budget
Each winter, City departments develop and submit budget requests to the City Manager for the next fiscal year. These requests are based on each department's needs, according to department heads. These requests include the first year of the CIP. From February to March, the City Manager reviews budget requests with the all City departments. On or before March 15, the School Board must submit its recommended budget to the City Manager. The City Manager submits the proposed budget, including the School Board's recommended budget, by April 15, to the City Council. Over the next two months, until June 15, the City Council discusses and deliberates the proposed budget with the City Manager, department heads, school officials and the School Board. Although the City Council can discuss and modify specific line items on the municipal portion of the budget, the Council is only authorized to vote on a bottom-line amount for the school budget. Public hearings on the budget are held at least seven days in advance of budget adoption by the City Council. Separate hearings for the City and School portions of the budget must be held at least 24 hours apart. By June 15, the City Council is required to adopt a budget resolution by a majority vote for the next fiscal year. In October, the City's tax rate is set by the state Department of Revenue Administration. The tax rate is based on the budget adopted by the City Council and the total assessed property value of the City.
Revisions to the Budget
Adjustments to the budget can be made in one of three manners: A City department (excluding the schools) may transfer appropriations between accounts within his divisions with City Manager approval. The City Manager may request transfers of appropriations between departments with majority approval of the City Council. The City Council may amend the budget by appropriating additional revenue or raising taxes before the tax rate is set. This requires a two-thirds vote.
Below is a presentation used during City Manager J. Michael Joyal's Budget Revealed session. It contains slides that visually explain the budget process. Video within the presentation explains the major functions of the budget.