City buckles down on budgeting principles
Exeter considers financial policies aimed toward balanced budgets and creating reserves among other measures
By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN
EXETER – Some go to a friend’s house for game night every now and again, but if you’re an Exeter City Council member you just went to your regularly scheduled council meeting.
On Tuesday, Jan. 23 the Exeter City Council made fun out of numbers playing Kahoot. Together all five members made up profiles and witty usernames. Facing off against one another and a couple city staffers they answered stumping questions like how much the general fund is out of the City’s entire budget, how is the general fund funded, what is the main revenue source that pays police, how much of the budget is dedicated to streets and roads, and so on. All-in-all the answers were either close or right on, but the game was an ultimate reminder that the City needs to get on the budgeting ball.
Last year the City adopted a budget expecting to come up $345,000 short, and this year they are trying to focus on some budgeting principles to avoid another deficit year. New finance director Chris Tavarez noted the City would like to put together a balanced budget. But if it isn’t possible they will note it was passed unbalanced and adopt a method to resolve the budget shortfall.
He noted next the need for budget reserves. Per a staff report the City hopes to gather an uncommitted reserve for all funds that could account for at least 10% of expenses. The revenue will come from budget surpluses or one-time revenues. Tavarez added that a general fund reserve should be $450,000.
Tavarez says one-time unpredicted revenues of more than $50,000 will only be use for one-time expenditures such as capital improvement projects or specified length programs. He went on to note several other principles including enterprise fund rates covering enterprise fund expenditures, annual audits, investment policy and debt management.
Tavarez said the City will use debt sparingly and not to fund operating needs, and debt amortization will be no longer than the useful life of the asset. The Council agreed with all of Tavarez’s recommendations believing following those policies will improve the fiscal health of Exeter.
City Council members will hold their budget workshop this Saturday, Feb. 3 from 8:00 a.m. to noon. The meeting is open to the public at the City Council chambers on F Street next to the Fire Station.