What have previously been considered routine budget adjustments and commission recommendations came under careful consideration and close scrutiny Monday as the Bishop City Council works to make every penny count with fewer of them rolling in.
There is an approximate $723,774 deficit between projected expenditures, $9,604,253, and revenues, $8,880,479, for fiscal year 2012-13 and Councilmember David Stottlemyre said he’s afraid the deficit gap could widen as he perceives the revenue forecasts to be too optimistic.
In at least the past two years, budget adjustments and modifications have usually been passed without much, if any, discussion at the regular 7 p.m. meetings, with more detailed discussions usually held during the 4 p.m. study sessions prior to the regular meetings. The way the city prepares its budgets has changed in the past two years as well, with staff preparing a two-year budget. The budget adjustments agendized for Monday were for the 2012-13 fiscal year.
Stottlemyre said that while these budget matters have “historically” been approved without problem, he said given the “current economic climate” it was time to “slow down, and review options.”
Stottlemyre, also a local tax consultant and bookkeeper, said he knows from experience that when “preliminary” budget numbers are published, they tend to be acted on as hard fact. He said Wednesday that he believes the public would like to see more discipline, exercising of due diligence and transparency with budget matters in this financial downturn.
“This is isn’t a time for business as usual,” he said.
Councilmember Jeff Griffiths said the preliminary budget is not a “binding document” and can be adjusted, just as past budgets have been adjusted throughout the year as needed.
Stottlemyre told his fellow councilmembers Monday that he found revenue projections in the budget to be high, by about $500,000, and thought the council should hold off on approving preliminary numbers with such a discrepancy. He said he hopes more cuts can be found and made to account for the overzealous revenue forecast.
“It’s going to be tough,” Stottlemyre said in reference to finding places to make cutbacks, since the city’s staffing and budgets are already “cut to the bone.”
Stottlemyre said the discussions being held are for the 2012-13 budget, this should give council and staff time to delay some projects, step back and “regroup” as a city and community.
This includes having staff wait for the release of the latest audit report, due out soon and for labor negotiations this time of year that can affect the budget. He also said officials should be asking the community to come together and work for the betterment of the city.
According to Stottlemyre, the City Council relies on public input to affect change. It also looks to the public as a new set of eyes to examine a problem and perhaps bring up a solution or avenue the council had not looked at or seen before.