Coun­cil begins 2019 bud­get process

City man­ager presents $164.5 mil­lion spend­ing plan

The Progress-Index - - FRONT PAGE - By Kate Gib­son Staff Writer

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.

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