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City preps for May budget work sessions

SHERIDAN — Spring is the season for baseball, budding trees and blooming flowers.

And budgets.

The city of Sheridan is gearing up for a round of work sessions to establish its budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1. Budget work sessions will be held daily at noon in the council chambers at City Hall beginning Monday. Sessions will conclude May 22.

According to Treasurer Jennifer Reed, the most significant change to this year’s budget is the way supplemental funds provided by the state Legislature can be used. The Legislature changed a footnote in its 2013 session, allowing the city to use supplemental funds for some operating costs that usually come out of the general fund.
In previous years, supplemental funds could only be used for capital improvement projects or one-time needs.

Now, the city can use approximately $981,000 in supplemental funds for operations costs such as fuel, street lighting and software. That will ease up some of the pressure on the general fund, Reed said. Supplemental funds cannot be used for salaries and wages.
“It’s lightened the load a little bit, but we’re still not there, we’re still working on the details,” Reed said.

Overall, Reed said the budget for fiscal year 2014 will remain “mostly flat.”

No major cuts are planned for programs and services. Salary freezes enacted in fall 2008 (fiscal year 2009) will remain in effect, with pay raises being given only for advancements.

Sales and use taxes are projected to be about the same as the current fiscal year, unless the Marketplace Fairness Act passes and sales tax on Internet purchases begins to be collected.

Furthermore, the city is being cautious with its budget because supplemental funds have the potential to be pulled as early as next fiscal year.

“The supplemental money has the potential to go away, and that would really, really, really hurt us,” Reed said.

Still, Reed remained optimistic about projected revenues and the city’s budget.
“The good news is, it’s no longer drastically dropping, so the thought is that services can be maintained at this point,” Reed said. “Even though there’s not large increases, I think that it is nice that we aren’t seeing drastic decreases.”

In the last several years, the city has cut its budget by approximately 30 percent, Reed said.

The budget process begins in earnest after the city finds out in February or March what it will receive from the Legislature. At that time, department heads place requests for funds while staff look at projected revenues and balance proposed expenses with those revenues. The budget is usually balanced by the time work sessions begin, Reed said. Details are hammered out in the work sessions, and the budget will be finalized and advertised for two weeks before being approved by City Council on June 17.

City Budget Work Session Schedule
All sessions are held at noon in the third floor council chambers at City Hall
May 6: Budget overview and introduction
May 7: One-Cent groups
May 8: IT and City Clerk
May 9: Capital Improvement Projects / Fleet
May 10: Streets / Snow Removal / Shop / Parks
May 13: Water and Sewer
May 14: Fire / Police/ Municipal Court
May 15: Solid Waste / Recreation District / Golf
May 16: One-Cent continued / Travel and Tourism
May 17: Planning / Engineering / Building Departments
May 20: Budget Wrap-Up
May 21: Budget Wrap-Up
May 22: Review and Finalize

About

Hannah Wiest is the government and outdoors reporter for The Sheridan Press. She has lived in Colorado and Montana but loves her sunny home state of Wyoming best. She joined The Press staff in February 2013.

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