The City of Salida formally adopted by resolution its 2021 Budget on Oct. 20, 2020 capping off a process that involved the Finance Department, City Administrator, department heads and multiple public presentations with citizens. The 2021 budget will be submitted to the State of Colorado on or before the deadline of January 31.
The numbers provided to the State are those adopted in October which had not changed materially since first shown to the public back last August. With this submission, the annual budgeting cycle begins anew with department input sought in April, 2021 and public presentation planned in August 2021, for the 2022 year.
An exciting aspect of the 2021 budget is a new layout that will soon be available online on the City’s updated website. Gone are the days of boring spreadsheets and black and white columns of figures, meant for accountants. The 2021 presentation is designed for easy readability, with lots of color and explanations of the ‘why and how’ behind the numbers.
A preview of the document reveals a well-organized document with hyperlinks and bookmarks that allow readers to jump directly from a desired topic in the Table of Contents to the chosen section.
Two major sections of prime interest to most Salidans are highlighted here. The “Budget in Brief” offers a high level overview of goals and priorities, budget highlights and lists the major capital projects.
This is followed by a summary of revenue and expense projections with visuals each showing how the “pie” is divided up. Look here to see how and where the money comes from and where it goes.
“This budget is balanced, as required and is based on conservative projections given the continuing effect of the COVID-19 pandemic”, said City of Salida Finance Director Aimee Tihonovich.
Revenue (exclusive of fund transfers and financing proceeds) is conservatively forecasted at 3.7 percent less than the 2020 budget. Expenses (exclusive of fund transfers) are budgeted at 0.3 percent less than the 2020 budget.
“We plan to accomplish our essentially ‘flat’ 2021 financial budget through a combination of continued expense control while maintaining current levels of service. Our planned capital projects and strategic expenditures take advantage of economic opportunities. They help ensure the upkeep of our infrastructure as well as staying ahead of anticipated capacity needs,” she added. “At the same time, City expenditures keep local firms needing work busy and their employees on the payroll and spending locally.
A modest use of our fund reserves is appropriate for keeping us moving forward while holding fund balances well above our targeted levels.” Tihonovich concluded.
In addition to annual street reconstruction, sidewalk and curb rehabilitation, major 2021 Capital Projects include:
- Replace the aging, deteriorating Gallery transmission main water line
- Highway 50 Phase IV Streetscape project continuation (in partnership with CDOT)
- Realignment and other safety upgrades at Poncha Boulevard’s intersections with West Third and I Streets
- Continuing to pursue the development of outside soaking pools adjacent to the aquatic center
- Completion of the Skate Park started in 2020
Given the slow rollout of vaccinations and continued social distancing, most forecasts predict that the first half of 2021 may look much like that last six months, with a gradual return to “normalcy”.
Salida’s challenge will be to maintain currently robust levels of retail sales and tourism taxes while reducing caseloads, keeping kids in school and people at work and hastening the economic recovery curve.
The second major section of interest to most people is the “Budget Message”, written by Drew Nelson, City Administrator. In it, he lays out what city leaders and staff expect to see in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to influence the economy and City operations. Plans and justifications for major capital projects are outlined, together with a review of City funds and staffing by department. Summing up this message, future challenges and opportunities are detailed, including needs for new facilities and more workforce housing.
“A primary challenge that Salida faces in both the short and long‐term continues to be its complete dependence on sales tax revenues. Salida is grappling with rapid changes and growth, which in past economic expansion cycles has added needed facilities to the community but has placed stress on many of the ties that bind the community together.” says Nelson. Statements like these provide a clue as to what the Salida Council will need to address in an upcoming annual Council planning retreat in March, in this, another municipal election year.
Looking further down the road, but important to consider starting now, is the budget’s ” Long-term Financial Management Plan”. Working with the City’s Financial Advisers Ehlers, Inc., the plan looks out some 12 years, forecasting big ticket immediate needs like a new fire station, as well as possibilities for a Sports Complex and Recreation Center. These three alone would require financial obligations that must be planned and secured well in advance with debt service factored into future budgets.
“While plans must be flexible, as the saying goes, ‘Failing to plan, means planning to fail’”, said City Treasurer Merrell Bergin. Like planning for a college education, delaying the inevitable usually only increases risks and costs. The current City administration has demonstrated a vision and resolve to not push things down the roads for others, but rather take charge of the City’s future fiscal direction to help turn the projects citizens ask for into realities.
“The 2021 Salida Budget is evidence that the City is on solid financial footing, has adapted well to the challenges of the pandemic and is looking forward to meeting the demands for services and facilities needed for years to come,” concluded Bergin. “The City invites you to look at the new presentation and bring any questions to our monthly Finance Committee meetings.”
Editor Note: The adopted 2021 Salida City Budget will be posted in its new format on January 31, 2021 on the City of Salida website Finance Pages, together with prior year budgets. And for those “finance majors” out there or those who want to dig deeper, the budget also has key information on fund balances as well as line-by-line details of revenue and expenses by account for departments and funds.