Nearly half of the funding for the City of Muscatine comes from property taxes (48 percent in Fiscal Year 2017-2018) but the fluctuations in state and federal funding sources and the highly competitive nature of seeking outside funding sources has placed even more emphasis on the use of property taxes as the major funding source for General Fund programs.
The City, through sound fiscal management, successful grant applications, contributions to programs, and outside funding sources, has been able to maintain the same tax rate ($15.67209 per $1,000 of valuation) for the past seven years while also improving the services offered to Muscatine citizens. In fact, the City tax rate has not been raised for the past 10 years.
But there is fear of the unknown when it comes to future funding opportunities The potential loss or reduction of back-fill payments from the state and the availability of grants and other outside funding sources could have a significant impact on what the FY 2019/2020 budget for the City of Muscatine is and how it will affect the City’s portion of the property tax rate.
Departmental budgets are prepared with an emphasis on meeting the needs of Muscatine citizens whether in infrastructure, housing, safety, recreation, or waste management, to name a few. Budget planning requires the departments to not only think short term (the requirements of the next fiscal year) but also long term (future goals and objectives). The question budget planners must ask is what needs must be met in the next fiscal year and what can be planned for and implemented in future fiscal years.
Those preparing the department budgets cannot live in the land where future money is guaranteed and their dreams, and the wishes of the residents, are but a yes vote away. Budget planners have to live in the land where there is an anticipation of the availability of funds but no guarantee.
City department heads, under the direction of the city administrator, began to collect information on department needs for FY2019-2020 at the end of October. Preliminary budgets were prepared during November departmental meetings and lobbied in front of the city administrator and finance director during December. While many good arguments were made for the preliminary budgets during these discussions, none escaped feedback needed for the next step … preparing the budget for presentation to the City Council.
One of the primary functions of the City Administrator is to weigh all of the departmental requests and then come up with something that works within the funding or proposed funding that exists. Fiscal authority, however, resides with the City Council who has the authority to allocate and appropriate of all funds. There is no guarantee that the department’s budget request will be approved without debate or without cuts, and, in fact, that debate on the needs of the department in relation to the needs of the citizens and availability of funds, is a vital part of the budget discussions by Council.
There are a myriad of issues and challenges associated with preparing a departmental budget, just as there are in combining those budget proposals into one comprehensive city budget that meets the needs of the citizens of Muscatine. It is no small feat especially when you consider future money is never guaranteed, just anticipated.
While local government cannot control what happens with the state legislature in Des Moines, local government can look ahead towards what they can do to ensure the expectations of its citizens are met. Long range plans that are geared toward increasing the population of residents, homes, and businesses have their base in these budgets. City departments, then, have to forecast what they can do to reach the long term goals while meeting the needs of citizens in the short term … and staying within the confines of the anticipated dollars that the City will receive in the coming fiscal year.
The presentations before the Muscatine City Council begins at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 24, 2019, when an overview of the proposed budget is presented. Over the course of the following two weeks, Council members will hear from the various departments and agencies as they present their FY2019-2020 budgets.
While the presentations are open to the public only the Council members are allowed to ask questions of the representatives. Public comment on the budget proposals will come during a public hearing tentatively scheduled for March 7, 2019. The budget presentations will be held in the lower level conference room at City Hall, 215 Sycamore. A complete schedule for the presentations is available on the city website at BUDGET PRESENTATIONS.
Each session has different departments presenting with citizens welcomed at all of the presentations. Public comment at this time is not part of the process but DO take notes because time for citizen input has been set aside during the Public Hearing that is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, March 1 (the actual date and time will be set by City Council at the conclusion of the department/agency presentations).
Throughout the budget process there are numerous opportunities to participate and engage with your City staff and Council members. Please stay tuned for periodic updates on the process, issues and challenges the City faces in putting together a budget for a full service city, and a budget that meets our community needs but is also responsible at the same time.
The City of Muscatine values constructive input and appreciates hearing your ideas. You can comment here on our blog, visit the Community Voice section of our web site, visit our social media sites at Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, or you can email us to stay connected.