Although some may see it as a mundane exercise, putting together a budget each year is the most important thing cities do, because no other work is possible without it. In Concord, we approach this monumental task with a spirit of teamwork, and I would like to offer you some insight to how it happens.
The process began in late January, when the City Council and I once again met with the City’s staff leadership team for the annual planning session. Of course, by this point the staff has already put considerable work into financial forecasts, policy research, and solutions to community needs. At the session, their findings are presented to the elected officials for deliberation. This is our opportunity to evaluate progress on current year goals
(which are already over eighty percent complete, by the way), receive information on the financial outlook, and consider priorities and focus areas for the year to come. The City Council continues to be forward-looking and progressive in its thinking, and the possibilities in our future are exciting.
A large focus again this year was on what the City has already done and can do going forward to serve customers better. The City continues to look for ways to embrace technology and seek partnerships that will result in better and more efficient service for you. Teamwork within the organization and with external partners is essential to improving our already great quality of life. To learn about a new partnership with Cabarrus County that will make permitting easier for those investing in our community, read the Manager’s Notes column beginning on this page.
After the City Council reaches consensus on goals and priorities for next year, all departments work with management to propose budgets that will achieve them as well as provide the every-day services on which our community depends. Again, a team approach is what makes the back and forth of the process result in a financial plan that will produce good results for you.
At the end of the budget process, the City Manager provides a recommendation that, by law, is balanced. That means that our budgeted expenses must equal our projected revenues for next year. This is both in the General Fund (mostly tax dollars) and other self-supporting enterprise funds such as aviation, transit, and public utilities. The Manager must recommend his budget by the end of May each year.
After the budget is presented and a public hearing is held, the City Council chooses to either adopt the budget as recommended or request adjustments as needed. The law requires Cities to adopt a balanced budget before the new fiscal year begins on July 1. Because our City Manager recommends a budget with a foundation built in January at the annual planning session, the City Council rarely requests adjustments and does not have trouble meeting the deadline.
With a process that begins with teamwork and focuses on benefiting our community, we are fortunate in Concord. The budget process can be mundane, but it can also be contentious and unproductive. That is not the case here, and when complete the City Council knows the budget and the services it provides for you are something to be proud of. In fact, I would put Concord against any other community in North Carolina, and cannot think of anywhere that can accomplish this with the same level of cooperation. These results are due to the City Council’s forward-thinking approach that is grounded in sensible priorities at the same time. It is a winning combination, and I am glad to be part of the team.