Budget process under way in Cottonwood

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MAYOR RUBEN Jauregui says Cottonwood faces some of its toughest decision during this budgeting session.

But deciding who gets what in the City of Cottonwood means months of work for staff and a final, lengthy review by the council.

That review ended Tuesday night with the final budget meeting of the Cottonwood council. The council gets to discuss just where every last penny goes with individual departments throughout the city.

"They deal with all of the departments," said City Manager Brian Mickelsen.

Those departments include general government, public safety, cultural and recreation, transit and wastewater. Within those departments, there are multiple departments still.

It was a tough year for communities across the state. Now Cottonwood, like other cities, has to make some decisions for its upcoming fiscal years based on many factors.

In April, Cottonwood Finance Director Rudy Rodriguez said that health insurance and workers compensation costs are rising. A bad state investment using the Local Government Investment Pool money and less in state revenue shared monies also led to some tough choices for staff and council.

"I think it was much more difficult," said Mayor Ruben Jauregui. "We also had much more discussion on where to spend the money."

He said that the entire council was extremely pleased that no programs or positions were cut.

"Each department had to do some trimming to their base operating budget," Mickelsen said. "That doesn't necessarily mean they were cutting any significant programs."

Staff presents the council with a balanced budget at the beginning of May. The council members are then allowed to make any modifications to it they see fit.

Mickelsen said this year, the council looked into adding a couple of staff positions. As a result, an additional firefighter and a planner position will be added into the budget.

Merit-based raises were a priority of the staff and council, but cost-of-living raises weren't in the original staff budget. Jauregui said that the council wanted the raises for city staff, but after adding the extra staff positions, they felt they couldn't afford it.

"That was one of the tougher choices right there," he said.

Projected revenues were down for the upcoming fiscal year. Downward adjustments were made for state revenue shared money, too.

"We're sharing in the pain of their budget woes," Mickelsen said of the state's problems.

The council asked the staff to look at some fee increases for construction permits to help even out the decreases.

"So far, our fees are way below virtually everyone's," Jauregui said.

The council also wants to look at what's commonly known as a bed, board and booze tax. Mickelsen said the city currently has a 2-percent bed tax. The new tax is fairly common around the state, he said.

Since city sales tax has flattened out the past year, the city is projecting almost no growth in that area.

"Hopefully that's conservative," Mickelsen said. "We didn't feel that the economic sights are strong enough."

The council will adopt a tentative budget in June. A final budget will have to be accepted in June. Changes to the budget can be made up until then by the council.


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