Council begins 2019 budget process
City manager presents $164.5 million spending plan
HOPEWELL — City Manager March Altman presented the proposed operating and capital budget for fiscal year 2019 to City Council during a work session on April 11.
“The budget that we’ve prepared for you isn’t an aggressive budget, so we’re not proposing any tax rate increases or fee increases,” Altman said, "nor is it passive, to say from the standpoint that we have granted everybody’s wish for what they want.”
There have been more than 20 departmental requests for additional staffing in addition to the five positions that were already put on hold pending the completion of the 2016 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). However, the proposed budget puts a cap on new positions and new projects.
“The overriding thought here is once we have our CAFRs finished in the fall, we have a good accurate understanding of where we are financially, we can go back and look at some
of those position issues either mid-year if possible or in the next budget process,” Altman said.
In total, the budget accounts for $164.5 million.
The budget proposal allows for a 5 percent to 6 percent increase for staff salaries to offset increasing healthcare costs in addition to a 2 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA).
“At minimum, I wanted to be able to cover the healthcare cost increase so ... if we couldn’t give a COLA, employees wouldn’t have less money in their pockets as a result of the health care cost increase,” Altman said. “If then we had money, then we would consider a COLA, which we were able to do both.”
The budget also notes capital projects for FY2019, including a disaster recovery system for Information Technology, an expansion of Crystal Lake Park, a remodeling of the front cashier area for the Treasurer’s Office and a new roof for the Hopewell Community Center.
“It’s fiscally responsible,” Altman said of the proposed budget. “It provides adequate funding to the departments to provide the services necessary to the citizens of the city, and it’s really based on current operating levels.”
Currently, the school system is listed as receiving the same amount of funding as last year: $14.3 million. This is the amount that was requested by Superintendent Melody Hackney during school budget talks in March, and she told The Progress-Index that the schools intentionally did not request additional funding as part of their commitment to be good community partners.
However, the school system has yet to submit their budget request to council and will be unable to do so until the General Assembly finalizes the state budget.
Councilors will review the proposed budget and will later provide their feedback. The governing body will hold another budget work session with a focus on city expenditures on April 17.