By Vice Mayor JOHN DE TRIQUET
Recently, your City Council approved an Operating Budget of over $900,000,000 for the upcoming fiscal year. For most folks, it’s hard to get your arms around that amount of money. How do you arrive at that amount? Where is the money coming from? Where is the money going to? All of these questions are important. And all these questions should be answered for the taxpaying families of Chesapeake.
Let me help explain the process your City management and Council use to arrive at this number. Actually, it’s no different than we all do, as families, when we decide what we can spend and what we can spend it for.
It all starts with priorities. City Council must, in a clear and transparent way, establish budget guidelines so the City Manager can do the work of balancing revenue with spending. For the past six years your City Council has required the following guiding principles:
#1 No increase in the real estate tax rate
#2 No new fees for current services
#3 Identify operating efficiencies and reduce spending accordingly
Additionally, your current City Council has been uncompromising in maintaining cash reserves to guard against unanticipated expenses and to maintain and enhance our bond rating nationally–similar to what families should do to make necessary borrowing less expensive. I am pleased to report to you that the City of Chesapeake has reserves that exceed that required by law. In addition to a “cash flow and emergency reserve,” City Council has self-imposed a 5% reserve for operating emergencies and a minimum of a $20 million reserve for emergency events and natural disaster response.
This just makes good financial common sense.
The next step is for the City Manager to direct department and agency heads to submit to him budget requests. The City requires a base level funding from all departments. After review the City Manager finalizes these department budgets.
Next, the City Manager must make revenue estimates for the upcoming year. 30% of revenue comes from General Property Taxes. 33% comes from the Commonwealth. Local taxes are about 14%. Only 4% comes from the Federal government.
Putting all this together, in addition to the funding requests from the School Board, estimated resources are allocated according to City Council’s Guiding Budget Principles.
Per Fiscal Year 2013-2014 here is the breakdown:
Of this year’s $13.1 million increase in the budget, $9.4 million is for school operating funds and additional resources are for our Public Safety departments.
Finally, this proposed budget is presented to City Council for review, discussion, and adjustments.
During the development of the yearly budget, a number of Public Hearings are held by City Council to receive comments and suggestions from citizens. I urge everyone to participate in the hearings, make your voice heard, and contribute to the good governance of our great City!