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City revamps budget process

For years, Douglas County has won awards for its budget presentation.

In fact, Thursday yet another award will be presented to the county for its annual budget book.

Now, when the Superior City Council receives its budget around Sept. 1, the city budget will resemble the book presented annually to the Douglas County Board.

The budgets approved by the City Council in the past have consisted of a series of spreadsheets that highlight the various expenses of each department, but the county budgets include a broad array of information.

The Douglas County Budget includes financial and general information about Douglas County; outlines revenue and expenditures; provides details by fund and department; and details the goals and purpose of each department in county government.

"I was always very proud of the county's budget, which was really award winning for several years in a row, partially because of its accessibility," said Mayor Jim Paine, a former member of the Douglas County Board. "Finance and department heads are hard at work drafting budget narratives for a different style of budget book that is more accessible to you and the citizens to open that book and see exactly how their money is spent.

Paine announced the change Thursday when he provided the Finance Committee with a preliminary look at a balanced budget. The goal is to make the budget, required to be presented by the mayor, is to make sure the budget is a collaborative effort before the Council has to make decisions.

"The bottom line is this is a very good, balanced budget," Paine said. "It's not only going to allow us to meet some priorities developed earlier in the year, but treats both the services the city provides and the payments the public makes for them ... this is a good budget."

The budget process started with a $400.000 deficit between spending and revenues.

Paine said the process was changed in meaningful ways, including establishing priorities and using that information to craft a budget. Individually, department heads went through expenses line by line against past expenditures and against current year spending to make sure the budget reflects what would actually be spent.

"I think this budget reflects the priorities that both the Council and myself brought to table," Paine said. "The department heads also had those priorities in front of them, which allowed them to defend their budgets against my machete."

Department heads deserved credit for making some of the cuts on their own before presenting their budgets, the mayor said.

Paine said savings found were reinvested in things such as police department overtime for community policing and de-escalation training, and software to allow the building inspection and fire departments to work with citizens more effectively.

The budget has no new levy for the general fund, but the levy will increase about 2 percent to pay for debt service, Paine said. Paine said his goal is to eliminate that levy increase by using terminal tax money.