Council to weigh spending options

Posted: March 19, 2013

The Winchester Star

Dale Iman

WINCHESTER — For the first time tonight, City Council will weigh spending options for its fiscal year 2014 operations, capital and equipment expenditures and a potential bond issuance of nearly $26 million.

City Manager Dale Iman and Finance Director Mary Blowe will present their proposed budget for next year at 6 p.m. when the councilors gather in Rouss City Hall for a work session. It’s one of the items on an agenda that also includes discussion of a resolution to accept an offer to host the 2014 Cal Ripken 10-Year-Old World Series.

Though he was hired before the FY13 budget was approved, that spending plan was prepared well before Iman’s arrival and he had minimal input into it.

This year, armed with a recently approved strategic plan, he’s analyzed every general-fund-budget line item to make sure all spending is in sync with City Council’s goals.

“It’s a results-focused budgeting process,” Iman said. “The basic premise is that we’re going to produce results that add value for the citizens of Winchester.”

He estimated that he spent 50 to 60 hours in meetings with city department heads and the constitutional officers whose offices the city helps fund.

Blowe said it’s the first time she’s helped prepare a results-oriented budget, and the process helped in making funding decisions.

“What was nice was that we had the strategic plan and as we went through we were determining how everything related to the plan — what goal, what objective needed this expense,” she said. “We were really able to tie the budget back to those objectives.”

The two operating-budget options to be presented to the council vary in one way.

The first option includes a 2 percent raise for city employees, which would cost $395,000. The second outlines how that money might be used — additional equipment replacement, paving and information technology spending — if salaries aren’t increased.

The proposed salary hikes, Iman said, would support two objectives aimed at developing a high-performing organization — developing and retaining a high-quality work force and maintaining competitive compensation and benefits for city employees.

The raise approvals likely will be tied to whether the Winchester School Board can find the money for comparable increases for their employees with level operational funding from the city. Iman said councilors don’t want City Hall employees to receive increases that schools employees don’t get.

The spending plan calls for 11 more full-time employees to be carried by the city.

That number includes four police officers whose grant funding ends halfway through the budget year, one gang task force officer whose grant funding is ending, and two new firefighters.

Iman said a benefit program specialist would be added to help the Department of Social Services shrink caseloads that have risen to about 700 from about 300 during the recession.

“The key to me is results,” Iman said. “We’ve got to find a way to fund the things we want to do in a way that allows us to get everything done in the proposed timeframe because if you drag it out, it costs you more.”

The revenue projections are aided by changing to a new health insurance plan. Iman said the city expects to save $257,000 across all departments, while employees will save $316,000.

The budget plan also includes a potential $25.95 million bond issuance.

The proposed projects to be financed with the bond money are John Kerr Elementary School ($20 million), Joint Judicial Center improvements ($3.35 million), the emergency communications upgrade ($1.6 million of the remaining $3.1 million total cost, with the rest coming from other sources), and $1 million for parking garage repairs.

City funding for regional agencies would increase by approximately $400,000 to nearly $5.5 million under the plan, with much of the extra money tied to adult and juvenile detention needs.

The proposal calls for the 11 outside agencies that received money in FY13 to be allocated the same amounts in FY14, with no additional outside agency funding.

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at vbradshaw@winchesterstar.com