Council holds the line for budget in 2005

POULSBO — No cuts this year, but a repeat of a repeat.

That’s the priority set by the Poulsbo City Council as it kicked off the 2005 budget cycle this week.

As department heads begin drafting their next year budgets, they’ll largely be held to 2004 numbers, except in the cases of salaries.

But that actually means that the 2005 budget will look much like it did in 2003. Just after passing the budget in late 2002, departments were forced to trim about 4.8 percent. About half of those budget cuts were later restored when carryforward was known and those final 2003 budgets became the basis for the 2004 document.

“I’m just always amazing at the department heads,” Finance Director Nanci Lien said of the ability of the city to hold to such restricted budgets. “They’re not wish list people. I think they’re very conservative with the people’s money.”

The good news, though, is that staff do not foresee any budget cuts being needed for the second year in a row. It will be more certain once department heads have determined their expected revenue for the year, however, Lien said she feels the “hold the line” theory will work out.

“I think it’ll be tight, but I think we’ll make it,” she said.

A preliminary draft of the 2005 budget is expected to be available to the public by Nov. 1 and the final draft is planned to be adopted at the Dec. 15 council meeting. But between now and then, Lien said she hopes community members will take an interest in the budget process and make their voices heard.

“This is your time to talk about what’s important to you and what you want to get done,” Lien said. “That’s what the budget is really about — what gets done.”

Lien said some of the best times for members of the public to get involved include:

•Attending committee meetings July 30-Aug. 27. Department heads will be meeting with their respective committees to discuss department expenditures, revenues, levels of service, new program and capital replacement items. Call the department heads or the finance department to inquire about a specific department’s presentation date or check out committee agendas online.

•Attending city council and committee meetings Sept. 1, 15 and 22. During these meetings, the capital improvement projects list will be presented and revenue and expenditures will be presented to the mayor for review and modification. Call the Finance Department or check out agendas online for specific topics.

•Attending budget workshops during council meetings Nov. 3-17. The official public hearings for the annual budget cycle are scheduled during these meetings and members of the public are invited to speak on the proposed budgets.

Community outreach is a large goal for the new finance director in her first budget cycle as a department head. Lien said she still hopes to garner some support from council to hold some informal public meetings where community members can come and ask questions about how the city spends its money. She admitted it may be too late this year, but she hopes to ask and, at the very least, propose such events for the 2006 budget cycle.

Barring any special events this year, Lien said she’d encourage anyone with a question or concern to approach any of the city council members or department heads.

“(The council is) always really receptive to anything the public wants to say,” Lien commented. “I always like to hear what the department heads have to say about their new budgets but sometimes it’s kind of frustrating because no one speaks.”

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