Though no one stepped forward for public comment, Financial Services Director Jeff Cronk said the budget has not changed since the Council’s recommendations during the April 22 board meeting.
City Manager Shaun Carey said the budget comes with its own set of strengths and weaknesses. No tax increases for citizens of Sparks was a strong note in Carey’s mind, but the Council voiced its opinion that the city will be working with a deficit in the fiscal year of 2013-14.
“We balanced the budget to a manageable deficit,” Carey said, following Tuesday’s meeting. “We maintained (a General Fund balance of) 6.6 percent (of expenditures) for the year with things that the council has done before in expectation that the departments and all of our employees will work towards the goal of getting us back to their policy of 8.3 percent.”
The deficit is about $800,000 for the fiscal year and the city has organized innovative and conservative efforts to shrink the deficit during the upcoming fiscal year. City management staff took another 1 percent pay cut during the budget cycle, which Carey said brings the total to 10.6 percent in the last seven years.
“It’s been very hard on employees,” Carey said of the cutbacks. “They have not had raises in seven years and we are chasing inflation with very limited revenues, so we are going to have to continue to sharpen our city focus and decide what we want to do really well, what we are going to do average and some of the things we are going to have to give up.”
The budget did aid the Capital Improvements Plan which Carey said addresses the needs of city buildings and structures that were devastated during the economic downfall six years ago. He said being able to fund some rehabilitation efforts will greatly improve energy efficiency and cost savings during the year, which he said will aid in getting back to 8.3 percent of expenditures during the year.
“We are trying very much to look at the next three years,” Carey said, “And we are seeing very limited growth in our three principal revenue sources. That presents a challenge in itself because inflation alone is expected to outpace that.
“Inflation in government for western cities was 1.9 percent in the year we are in right now. Those things you see when you go to the grocery store or buy fuel because prices are going up.”
With the dust settling on the budget cycle for the year, Carey said the efforts of his staff were undoubtedly part of the budget’s passing and added that every city department and staff member would be looking for innovative ways to maintain city services.
“Budgeting is a team sport,” Carey said. “You have all the departments who each have individual budgets, the largest being the police department, making up 38 percent. The fire department comes next at 27 percent so there is about 60 percent of it which goes mostly to people and equipment to keep our community safe, and we are happy about that.
“Citizens will see the services continue into next year on a solid footing. I am hopeful that the economy will continue to improve in Sparks. There are hopeful signs in the sales of homes and sales tax, and if those could continue that would provide us a footing from which to work.”