Sedona AZ (March 12, 2014) – The City of Sedona’s budget process began on December 16, 2013, with a City Council work session to set goals and priorities for the new fiscal year (the City’s fiscal year runs from July 1st to June 30th). During January and February, City departments fine-tuned revenue projections, submitted operating and capital budgets and prepared “decision package requests” for new programs or projects. In March, staff will compile the requests and whittle those down so that they fall within the annual revenue restrictions. The proposed budget will be presented to the City Council over three days between April 29 to May 1, 2014. This is when the hard work begins for our elected officials, as they balance Council priorities and fiscal responsibility.
As a part of the budget process, the City reviews and updates the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). Until now, the CIP had been a ten-year plan for identifying, scheduling, financing and tracking major capital expenditures. A major capital expenditure is defined as the acquisition, construction or extension of the life of a capital asset, costing more than $50,000 and having a useful life of at least five years. This year, the City will narrow the CIP to a six-year time frame and strengthen the plan by identifying funding for the next three years, instead one year, as was past practice. This change will provide a more realistic picture of the City’s infrastructure needs and allow staff to focus on current projects.
Also new this year, four Sedona citizens are imbedded in the budget process. These private citizens receive draft budget documents, attend the budget meetings with staff, ask questions and provide valuable feedback, not only to staff, but also to the City Council.
The budget process is a key planning tool for the City. It serves as a policy guide, a financial plan, an operations outline and a means of communicating the Council’s priorities. The budget process is memorialized in the City’s Budget Document. The City submitted last year’s 300-plus page Document to the Government Finance Officers Association in consideration of its Distinguished Budget Presentation Award. City Council and staff are honored to have received that award. It’s the highest form of recognition in governmental budgeting and reflects the City’s commitment to meeting the highest principles of governmental budgeting. The Budget Document provides the community with a transparent high-level overview and a detailed accounting of the City’s revenues and expenditures.
Something that can impact future budgets is the City’s Home Rule (Alternative Expenditure Limitation). In August 2014, registered City voters will have the opportunity to vote to allow the City to set its budget locally, rather than mandating the state-imposed expenditure limitation. The Arizona Constitution imposes an expenditure limit on every city and town in the State, not operating under Home Rule. The limitation, which uses expenditures from the 1979-1980 fiscal year as a baseline, controls the amount of money a city can spend. While it does not limit the revenue a city will receive, the result is that revenues collected above the state-imposed limit cannot be spent.
The City has operated under Home Rule and set its own budget for 18 years. Home Rule was last approved in March 2012 and requires renewal by City voters every four years. However, a recent change in election laws by the Arizona State Legislature necessitates that the matter be presented this year instead of in 2016.
We encourage all of the City’s citizens to participate in the 2014/2015 budget process. A citizen can participate by reviewing documents posted on our website (www.SedonaAZ.gov), attending City Council budget work sessions, and/or attending the regular Council meetings when the tentative and final budgets are scheduled for possible adoption.