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Superior council alters budget timeline

Mayor Jim Paine proposed moving the city's budget presentation to October to have more accurate numbers in the revenue and spending plan.

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Government Center in Superior, Wisconsin. Jed Carlson / 2019 file / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — The city council is going to wait a little longer to get a glimpse of the budget for the upcoming year.

Councilors adopted changes to the ordinance governing the budget process Tuesday, Aug. 16, to give the mayor another month to prepare the city budget for consideration. The ordinance required the mayor to present the budget at the first council meeting in September. Under the change, that requirement moves to the presentation to the first meeting in October.

“As far as I can tell, we’re the only city in Wisconsin with that ordinance, making us the earliest budget presentation in the entire state,” Mayor Jim Paine said.

Paine proposed the change because there are several estimates for the budget that are difficult or impossible to determine before the budge is presented in September.

“It’s kind of silly when I see many of my counterparts are not even beginning work on their general fund budget until well into fall for the reason I’m proposing this — you don’t have all of your numbers,” Paine said.

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Budgets presented in September are incomplete, and in reviewing past budget presentations, Paine said councilors typically haven’t adopted the next year’s budget before October. He said last year the budget changed twice from the original plan before it was adopted in October.

“This ordinance would still allow you three full meetings to amend the budget,” Paine said. “… The difference here is the budget would be complete. The numbers would be as accurate as we can make them.”

With the later presentation of the budget to the council, Paine proposed providing an update to the finance committee in September. He said that would be particularly beneficial in tough budget years.

With rising health care and energy costs, Paine said he anticipates a budget for 2023 that will have fewer new initiatives than previous years. The revenue and spending plan would still reflect priorities established by the council, he said.

Councilor Mark Johnson asked if it might be wiser to have an earlier look at the budget when it’s going to be a challenging year.

Paine said that could make it more difficult to present a balanced budget, which could make it more challenging for the council to pass.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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