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OP-ED “Summer is Here, Time to Prepare a New City Budget”
With the Mayor Giving his Recommended City Budget to the City Council on July 21, Should the City Council Also Provide One?



July 21, 2021 - it is that time of year again, where we as a community sit down at the drawing table to discuss the state of the City of Sioux Falls, and its Finances.

Each year, between August 1st and September 30th, the Mayor and City Council spend countless hours discussing how much tax revenue will be collected by the City over the incoming months, while they begin the process of making plans of how to spend that future revenue being collected. But while the Mayor provides to the people and their representatives his or her "recommended plan", the City Council fails to provide to the mayor their own "recommended plan". Leading to some in the community to question whose budget is it. Is it the mayor's plan, or is it the people's plan?

While the City of Sioux Falls Charter as per Section 5.02 stipulate the Mayor's Office must provide to the City Council a Financial Plan (a budget) by August 1st of each year, and this typically takes place between July 20 and July 31st of each year, the charter has been silent on the fact the City Council must present its own budget in return. This leads to some confusion. The city council itself has to accept the mayors plan with no clear power to set a financial plan of its own in place. The charter simply says:

The mayor's message shall explain the budget both in fiscal terms and in terms of the work programs. It shall outline the proposed financial policies of the city for the ensuing fiscal year, describe the important features of the budget, indicate any major changes from the current year in financial policies, expenditures, and revenues together with the reasons for such changes, summarize the city's debt position and include such other material as the mayor deems desirable. - Section 5.03

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Therefore, between August 1st and September 30th - the Mayor's Administration, the Finance Department, and all of the City Departments bring forth the City Council's reports of plans as supported by the City of Sioux Falls itself, based on the long-term vision of the current mayor at that point in time. While the City Council may offer suggestions, may at times make slight changes, or add things to the budget, the City charter makes it well known that the mayor's recommended budget is the predominant financial plan of city government.

South Dakota Codified Law simply says by it's first public meeting to be held September of each year, the Municipality must present to the public a list of projected revenues and expenses to be paid over the course of the next fiscal year, while it does not create a deadline other than a proposed list of taxes and expenses be adopted by ordinance, it does present a legal date to be December 31st of each year:

The governing body of each municipality shall, no later than its first regular meeting in September of each year or within ten days thereafter, introduce the annual appropriation ordinance for the ensuing fiscal year, in which it shall appropriate the sums of money necessary to meet all lawful expenses and liabilities of the municipality. The ordinance shall specify the function and subfunction as prescribed by the Department of Legislative Audit for which the appropriations are made and the amount appropriated for each function and subfunction, which amount shall be appropriated from the proper fund. It is not necessary to appropriate revenue to be expended from an enterprise or trust and agency fund if the fund is not supported or subsidized by revenue derived from the annual appropriated tax levy. However, an annual budget for these funds shall be developed and published no later than December thirty-first of each year.

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The City Charter, by means of Section 5.05 (c), goes beyond the Statutory requirement by demanding that the Mayor and City Council adopt a Fiscal Budget by September 30th of the current year so the residents of the municipality may review such a budget and raise questions.

As an advocate for better government, I recommended a proposal to the City's Charter Revision Committee in 2021 to revise, amend, and change Section 5.05 to allow the City Council to have more power over taxes, fees, the expenses each year by allowing it to establish its own recommended budget. I proposed that while the Mayor provides to the council his recommended plan by August 1st, the City Council should also provide to the people directly it's own recommended budget as well, and during the month of August, the two sides should then discuss both proposals, thus allowing the people to decide which one should be the preferred choice, let alone, making compromises between the two recommendations, by no later than September 10th, which provides necessary time for the Mayor and City Council to make changes leading up to September 30th, of each year.

Under my proposal, there would be a clear separation of power between the Mayor's Office and the City Council, while keeping in mind that the city council receives updated financial updates each month or even daily, and it has its own Internal Finance Auditor, Fiscal Committee, and means to review and track financial data. The City publishes its financial report as early as March of each year.

I would like to see Section 5 of the City Charter revised to read as such, giving the City Council more power over the budgetary process:

Charter, Section 5.05 - Section 5.05 City Council Action on Budget (changes in bold, underline)

(c) Adoption. The city council shall adopt the annual appropriation ordinance for appropriated funds for the ensuing fiscal year on or before the 30th day of September of the fiscal year currently ending. The annual appropriation ordinance shall make appropriations by fund and department or organizational unit. It is not necessary to appropriate funds to be expended from a proprietary or trust fund if the fund is not supported or subsidized by revenue derived from the annual appropriated tax levy. However, an annual budget for these funds shall be adopted by resolution on or before the 30th day 10th day of September of the fiscal year currently ending and published at the same time as publication of the annual appropriation ordinance. If the city council fails to adopt the budget by this date, the budget proposed by the mayor shall go into effect.

Within ten (10) days, the city council shall return to the Mayor a detailed list of ten items that should be added or removed from the proposed budget, and the Mayor shall submit to the city council a list of ten items that should be added or removed from the proposed budget. Ten days after that deadline, the Mayor plus two City Council Members shall call forth a Special Council Meeting to discuss the changes to be made to the budget in order to pass the annual appropriation budget. If the two sides cannot agree to an appropriation budget by joint resolution, the last agreed prior budget shall remain in full effect for next twelve months.

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⦁ IF the two sides cannot agree to a budget, then no new budget should be adopted.

⦁ IF there is no new budget, then the budget last voted on shall remain in effect and the city shall restrict itself to spending tax dollars based on a previously adopted budget.

By making this small change, you are allowing the Mayor to propose his recommended budget between July 20th and August 1st, while at the same time allowing the City Council to present to the public its own recommended proposed budget. During the month of August, they may discuss both proposals, hash out any differences and make changes to either one. By September 10th, they must agree to one or the other, or over the next twenty days, by joint resolution, adopt an agreeable budget that is acceptable to both the mayor and the city council.

If neither side should agree, then the PEOPLE have power as residents of the city to hold the city government to the last adopted budget from a previous year. They can enforce their right to ensure that city government cannot simply run over the people's wishes beyond their voluntary consent.

All Residents of the City of Sioux Falls may upon request from the City Finance Department copies of the last updated Annual Financial Report. This provides to the residents all revenue sources, past expenses of the city, statements of all accounts, funds, and programs of the city. It provides key data, statistics, and more, which becomes a useful financial tool of residents in establishing a plan to be adopted over the next twelve months. Three times each month the city council holds key informational meetings to discuss projected revenues, projects, and other data that warrant public discussion over the course of the next year.

As we, as the residents of the City of Sioux Falls, begin budget talks to determine how to spend our public taxes and revenues for the period between January 1st of 2022, to the end of December 31 of the year 2022, lets begin to enforce the public's right to to be part of the process, as well as pay attention to each and every detail that the residents may or may not want, as participants in the commercial activity of the city each year.

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Balancing your Checkbook is an important concept in our daily lives, and that concept does not simply stop at your front door. It involves all of us as residents who are required to pay taxes to the city itself.

Be part of the governing process, help make the City of Sioux Falls a much better place to live, and be part of the "budgetary process" each month. Help to shape the City long into the future by building better roads, infrastructure, citywide programs and services, and better means for the residents to go about their daily lives within the city itself.

Beginning on July 21st with the Mayor's Budget Address, you will have the ability to participate in public discussion to establish the next year's city budget, as well as the Five Year Capital Plan, which establishes a plan for building new roads, fixing existing roads, and repairing and building infrastructure, new bike trails, bridges, a new electric grid, and our water and sewer system. Be part of the solution, not the problem.

"To implement a budget is to apply one's ideas about life and spending to the real world." ― Zachariah Renfro


--Mike Ziiterich

Post Date: 2022-07-25 10:14:03Last Update: 2022-07-25 10:42:36

    


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