My thoughts on town budgets |

My thoughts on town budgets

Ted Wang " Mayor's Minutes

At this time of year, local elected officials are seasoning their turkey dinners with hefty servings of time (not thyme) spent pouring over binders stuffed with spreadsheets, detailing the proposed annual budgets for their jurisdictions.

Following a delicious meal of holiday fare, virtually nothing is such good preparation for that afternoon nap as reading page after page of numbers, piled as high as the dishes in the kitchen sink.

But, much like the impact of the cat pouncing onto one’s full belly, or the crash as the dog topples the trash can in search of “people food,” a reality check knocks board members in their heads.

The annual budget process is, arguably, one of the most important things your elected officials do each year; and so they get down to work.

Budget discussions and analysis begin in August and aren’t completed until late November or December. They must be completed by the end of the calendar year.

It’s during these workshops and meetings that priorities are set and direction will be given to staff for the coming year. Money will be allocated to specific projects, compensation will be adjusted, staffing needs will be evaluated, donations to worthy causes will be determined, and the outlines of the business of the town will be sketched out.

Every year brings a new set of challenges to be met.

Even though Granby’s revenues have grown significantly in the past few years, so have expenses.

More staff is needed to handle the town’s business ” for example, our excellent police department. Inflation is taking its toll as well.

Everyone is aware of the increasing cost of anything made from or using petroleum and street repairs and enhancements have escalated in price faster than the overall inflation rate.

So, how do your elected officials take all these factors into consideration and come out the other side with a budget that works for the bottom line as well as filling the needs of the people?

Staff members discuss the needs of their individual department and make projections for those increasing costs.

Earlier in the year, the town board had a planning retreat to outline big picture ideas and priorities, and the direction from those sessions goes into the staff budget drafts. It falls to the Finance Director and the Town Manager to pull together all the staff input and to present the first draft to the trustees.

At workshops dedicated to budget discussion, the trustees debate priorities and consider where the always limited resources are best positioned. When the public has been interested and willing to participate, a citizens’ budget committee has offered their opinions and some individuals have attended workshops on their own.

However, in recent years, there has been a lack of citizens willing to assist in the budget process. This is unfortunate. Even with a board with diverse perspectives, having additional citizen input at the meetings adds to the process.

For 2008, discussions have centered, in no particular order, on the establishment of a capital replacement fund, providing the police department with an additional officer, increasing expenditures for the revitalization of downtown, Jasper Avenue reconstruction and other paving projects, contracting for building inspection services from a private firm instead of Grand County, along with many other topics large and small.

Each department has valid needs, and prioritizing is a vital function that your board performs with all due consideration.

It’s the goal of the town board to make our community healthy in all senses of the word ” a safe and welcoming town for residents and visitors, thriving with opportunity for economic growth, preserving our small town atmosphere while understanding that growth and change are both necessary and inevitable, providing good streets to drive upon and clean water to drink, and acknowledging and protecting the town’s interests on a regional and statewide basis.

How those goals are accomplished and how quickly are both intimately tied into the budget process. Those stacks of printouts and spreadsheets, the discussions that at times seem endless, and the extra time of thought relating dollars and cents to that larger vision likely will never thrill like that post-Thanksgiving dinner football game.

In the long run, however, the work of developing, considering and adopting a town budget is important in sustaining and growing the town we are thankful to call home.

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