YORK – Historically, the city council, administration and department heads started talking about the budgets for the new fiscal years in August and passed those budgets in September.
But after last year’s “emergency situation” in August that had city council members passing severe budget cuts after only a few discussions, Mayor Barry Redfern wants the process to be more in-depth, with more time for discussion, public input and thought.
That’s why he jump started the process in April and had another budget work session this past week with council members and the city administration.
And it won’t be the last such discussion, he said, over the course of the next few months.
Another budget work session is scheduled for July 11, from 5-7 p.m. And during that meeting, council members will sit down with physical, preliminary budget books so each department can be carefully considered.
Another budget discussion is then tentatively set for July 18, to be followed by another work session on Aug. 1 during which some decisions will be made regarding numbers to be presented to the public.
A public hearing will be held Aug. 15, regarding the proposed budget.
The property valuations are due from the assessor on Aug. 20 – that’s when city officials will know the exact numbers they are working with.
A special council meeting is tentatively set for Aug. 29, during which a public hearing will be held and adoption of the budget will take place.
The last regularly scheduled council meeting before the budget is due to the state is Sept. 19 – and Sept. 20 is the day the final budget is due to the state auditor.
“By starting early, what we are trying to do is give a scope of what we are working with and a look at what the challenges will be,” Redfern said to the council. “This is really a first look. No final decisions have been made or are being made. We will probably have a half-million dollar challenge in front of us, just to start.”
The half-million challenge he was referring to is the preliminary gap between expenses and revenues, in order to have a balanced budget . . . as things look right now.
He outlined a number of options before the council that could help close that gap – increasing the property tax levy, labeling a specific levy that is representative of only the city’s debt service, cutting spending, etc.
“There are a lot of things to consider and talk about it, that’s why we are starting early,” Redfern said.
Progress has already been made, he said. When the budget talks started in April, the proposed expenses were $10.3 million and those have already been brought down to $8.3 million. Pellie Thomas, the city’s treasurer, said she and York City Administrator Joe Frei have been working with department heads to pare back the proposed expenses.
“Since April, the preliminary proposed expenses have come down a long way,” Redfern said. “We are trying to narrow things down so you have time to think about all this, get your hands around it. All the proposed expenses, as well as cuts, are subject for discussion.
It was noted that insurance costs and a possible cost-of-living raise for employees will be considerations in this budget process.
“This is an opportunity to ask questions,” Redfern said to the council members. “Please, please, do not feel intimidated. Please, ask questions and offer your opinions. Every time someone asks a question, someone learns something. That’s what these talks are for.”
Editor’s note: More coverage from this budget work session will be found in Saturday’s publication of the York News-Times.