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Budget Season is Here!

Budget Season is Here!

Council Corner: Budget Season is Here!

By April Sither, Town Councilor & Finance Committee Chair

On Wednesday, March 30, the Town Manager and Superintendent presented an overview of the FY23 budget to the Town Council. For many of us in town, this presentation represents the official kickoff of what we commonly refer to as “budget season.” This high level snapshot is just the beginning of our budget adoption process, which will include first reading, Finance Committee meetings, a public hearing, community roundtables, second reading, and ultimately a school budget referendum scheduled for Tuesday, June 14.

Additionally, on Wednesday evening the Council unanimously voted to restructure the Finance Committee as a result of Paul Johnson’s resignation from the Council. I am honored, and admittedly a little trepidatious, to take on the role of Finance Chair. I want to once again thank the Council for putting their faith in me to be a leader in this process. I look forward to being joined by Councilors Jon Anderson and Ken Johnson as we take a deep dive into this year's budget proposal.

For those who may be new to the process or looking to learn more, all of our budget-related materials and communications can be found in the Budget Portal, located on the Town’s website. Our first step as a Council is to vote on the first reading of the budget itself, which is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, April 6. The order to be voted on will include an initial tax request, and is frequently reported in the news as it relates to the projected mil rate increase. It is worth noting that in January the Council once again approved a goal of no more than a 3% increase to the mil rate.

After first reading, the Finance Committee will complete a comprehensive, department-by-department review of the proposed budget throughout the month of April and into early May. Community engagement is highly encouraged at our committee meetings. A full schedule is available on the Town’s website. Additionally, the Communications Committee is also in the process of scheduling community roundtable meetings, so be on the lookout for those opportunities as well! The Town Council is charged with final approval of the municipal budget at second reading. On that same night, the Council will simultaneously set the school budget tax request, which will go to the voters on June 14.

This will be my fourth budget cycle as an elected official, and my first as a Town Councilor. Over the past three years, we have seen a shift in the community culture that surrounds budget talks. What was once a bitter divide, marked by competing roadside signs and a staunch “us vs them” mentality, has been gradually repaired. I attribute this improvement to the significant increase in communication and the relationship building that has taken place. Just like in our personal lives, these professional relationships take time and energy to maintain. But in my opinion, these relationships almost always pay dividends.

My approach to this year's budget development process will hopefully continue this same trend. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting with department heads and town staff as part of my onboarding to the Council (Public Works department, you’re next on my list; consider yourself warned!), and look forward to engaging with residents as we discuss our priorities and address how to meet the community's needs.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Scarborough Town Council.