If you want to know the truth about an organization’s vision, don’t look at its vision statement -- look at its budget. How an organization allocates its limited resources is the best indicator of what it is trying to achieve. The Town is no exception to this rule; our budget is one of the most critical processes connecting the Town Board Strategic Plan to the day-to-day operations of the organization.
October is a key month in the budget-development process. My proposed budget is due to the Town Board by Oct. 15 and the Town Board spends four hours on consecutive Fridays reviewing the budget during special study sessions (Oct. 18 and 25 this year). The delivery of my proposed budget marks the culmination of an eight-month process that begins with the public process of Strategic Planning and Capital Improvement Planning in May, and ends with budget adoption at the last meeting in November or the first meeting in December.
The budget is how the Town Board’s Strategic Plan is implemented. Existing services that support the Town’s mission and vision are funded, new services are resourced, and hard decisions are made about which strategic priorities to pursue and which ones to pass up or put on the back burner. Public sentiment – throughout the year -- helps the Town build a Strategic Plan that meets as many of our community’s needs as possible. The strategic planning sessions in May and June guide Department Directors in developing their base budget requests and service proposal change forms. Base budget requests contain the financial resources necessary to continue providing existing service levels while service proposal change forms are used to alter the base budget and provide a higher (or lower) level of service. The Town’s Executive Leadership Team reviews the base budget and service proposal change forms, prioritizes them as a team, and provides me with recommendations on budget funding levels. I then review the requests and recommendations once more with the Finance Director, make final changes if necessary, and submit a proposed budget to the Town Board for discussion and consideration.
I am pleased to say that the Town is in a strong financial position moving into 2020. The proposed 2020 budget maintains a 25 percent General Fund balance, which serves as our “rainy day fund” for emergencies. It also sets aside significant reserves for matching grant funds, and is structurally balanced (ongoing expenses do not exceed ongoing revenues).
Service levels are maintained in important areas like police services, water, power and communications, parks, streets maintenance, visitor services, events, and more. The ongoing revenue picture in the General Fund is tight, but we are making progress in stabilizing ongoing cost growth and looking towards greater investment in our capital assets.
You can find the proposed 2020 budget, along with packet materials for the budget presentations, online at www.estes.org/boardsandmeetings under “Town Board of Trustees.” If you have a specific question about the budget, you can contact the Finance Department at 970-577-3560. We are also always open to suggestions on how we can make the budget process easier to understand and engage in for our residents.
Finally, please consider engaging in the budget process, so that you can help us shape our service to the community. Public hearings on the budget will take place during the Nov. 12 and Nov. 26 Town Board meetings, with final consideration of adoption anticipated Nov. 26. The meetings take place at 7 p.m. in the Town Board Room of Town Hall. We encourage you to attend and comment at these public hearings, or send your written comments to the Town Board via email to the Town Clerk at email@example.com.