During the October 6th regular meeting
, Snowmass Village Town Council unanimously approved the 2015 budget. Before this meeting, staff was working behind the scenes deep in the multi-month process of setting and approving the town’s budget—a tall order when dealing with more than $40 million in revenues and expenditures combined. What exactly does this process entail? And, how does the community know their local government is allocating taxpayer funds responsibly? We answer these questions with a few little known facts about our budget process.
1. The Town has developed a budget philosophy that guides our financial decisions
The development and maintenance of the town’s budget each year is rooted in a philosophy that has helped the organization maintain consistency, and successfully weather the economic recession. These principles include:
2. Pulling the budget together is a collaborative effort
- Balance on-going revenues with expenditures,
- Identify opportunities for cost and service efficiencies,
- Use the most restricted funds first,
- Manage our equipment replacement program
- Use one-time funds for one-time costs
- Identify capital improvement projects (for example, the entryway)
- Maintain a general fund reserve policy
Tax dollars don’t belong to any one department. Rather, they fuel the entire town organization allowing it to provide great services and meet the needs of the community. Council goals set during a series of meetings with the Town Manager form the basis for the budget. Then, department heads meet regularly to get a handle on the challenges the organization faces, think creatively about solutions and discuss areas of overlap. Often, some of the best ideas to solve tricky budget challenges come from other departments.
3. More than 6-months of work go into the budget process
The budget fiscal year covers January 1 – December 31. But the Town’s budget process officially kicks off in late June of each year. Through the months of July and August, department heads work closely with the Finance Department to identify goals, objectives, staffing levels, capital purchases, and other significant budget changes. Finance also looks closely at historical data to develop revenue projections and supports departments in assessing fee for service projections (such as revenue projections for parking tickets or moving violations for example).
In September the budget goes to the Financial Advisory Board who reviews the budget in full, and offer recommendations to Town Council. In early October, the budget moves to Town Council work sessions. This process allows the Council to identify additional projects or expenditures, set priorities, and vote new items into the budget. After final revisions based on Council feedback, staff prepares a final budget resolution which is presented and voted on during a public hearing. On January 1st, the new budget takes effect.
4. There are lots of checks and balances to make sure the budget is in synch with town goals and priorities
Ultimately the budget is adopted by a majority vote of the Town Council by resolution, and the Council can make amendments to the budget throughout the year (which are adopted by ordinance). Budget meetings are open to the public who have the opportunity to weigh in on priorities, expenditures, and proposed projects.
Two town boards also play an important role in budget adoption. The Financial Advisory Board for example makes recommendations to the Council. All seven board members have backgrounds and/or education in business or public finance, accounting, or budgeting. The Marketing, Special Events and Group Sales Board works closely with Snowmass Tourism to vet the budget for the town’s marketing and group sales functions, with the goal to promote Snowmass Village lodges, activities, and businesses.
Finally, there’s always the state of Colo. and the federal government. One of the Finance Department’s biggest challenges—like any municipality—is staying on top of any and all changes to state and federal regulations that govern financial decision making, borrowing, procurement, and the list goes on!
5. Turns out, we’re pretty good at this whole budgeting thing
For 14 years, the town has been recognized by the Government Finance Officers Association’s Distinguished Budget Presentation Awards Program. This award was established to encourage state and local governments to follow best practices on budgeting.
Learn more about the town’s budget, and view the newly adopted 2015 budget