City Manager Morgan Smith presented the proposed 2021-2022 Biennial Budget at the Sept. 22 City Council meeting. The Biennial Budget is the financial plan for the upcoming two years and expresses the City’s identified priorities and planned service delivery to the community.
The $39 million Proposed Budget projects an annual reduction in overall tax-supported revenues of approximately 9% (or $2 million) compared to forecasts before the economic fallout of COVID-19. The budget was developed to adjust to the City’s reduced revenue while still maintaining the City’s ongoing commitment to its highest priority goals and core services. The revenue loss derives from lower collections for sales tax and other taxes, as well as the elimination of approximately $400,000 per year due to the passage of Initiative 976 (described as the “$30 car-tab initiative”). Revenues from motor vehicle license fees have historically been used to pay for street maintenance.
“This Proposed Budget makes the required adjustments to acknowledge our revenue contraction, but in a way that also aims to maintain support for our highest priorities ,” City Manager Morgan Smith said. “The choices made in this budget, although difficult, attempt to balance our identified community goals with the need to maintain stewardship of our public infrastructure and provide core City services.”
In accordance with the City’s financial policies and objectives, the Proposed Budget presents ongoing expenses that are lower than ongoing revenues and maintains minimum fund balance reserve levels. Fund balance is the accumulation of revenues minus expenditures, which can be used in future years for purposes determined by the Council. Fund balance is a measure of fiscal health and future capacity. These monies are typically used for one-time spending on capital projects or Council-related initiatives. The Proposed Budget balances current discretionary City spending against financial capacity for future planning and decision-making, such as implementation of the forthcoming Climate Action Plan and the work in progress to identify Sustainable Transportation projects.
Key highlights in the Proposed Budget:
- Adds a Behavioral Health Navigator position in the Police Department. This position will allow a more integrated approach between law enforcement and social services.
- Provides $300,000 to support the City’s implementation of the Climate Action Plan; the Council’s highest priority for the 2021-2022 City budget.
- Includes $100,000 to support Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives.
- Maintains the current funding levels of $2.0 million to support community partners and programs for human services, cultural element funding, and other support including economic development. The decision to maintain this funding level reflects the expectation of increased community needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Maintains the City emphasis on effective stewardship of existing and planned infrastructure. The Proposed Budget funds new capital projects of about $5.3 million for utility projects and $3.8 million for tax-supported projects. This amount does not include support from state and federal grants. Tax-supported major projects include Madison Avenue sidewalk reconstruction, Country Club bulkhead reconstruction, and the Visconsi Trail. Major utility projects include Winslow fire flow improvements, Winslow water tank replacement, and Village Basin sewer improvements.
- Eliminates three regular positions (Police Officer, Senior Judicial Specialist, Senior Plan Check Engineer) and two term-limited positions (Public Records Analyst, Senior Planner); all of which are currently vacant.
Public participation in budget process
The proposed 2021-2022 budget can be viewed online at https://www.bainbridgewa.gov/1258/Budget.
Discussions on the proposed budget will be held during all virtual City Council meetings in October and November. See the timeline for discussion topics and opportunities for public comment on the budget webpage.
In addition to attending the virtual Council meetings, members of the community can submit questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. All “budget queries” will be posted on the City website at the link provided above. Community input on the budget is welcome and encouraged until the Council approves the budget later this year.