Monday, November 3, 2008

Roanoke Citizens Cut The Budget

Saturday morning while some Roanoke citizens were giving their grass a final cut other citizens struggled making city budget cuts. Though it was only an exercise they took it seriously.

At the invitation of Bob Clement, Neighborhood Services Coordinator, twenty citizens got a lesson in how to develop a Roanoke City budget. Sherman Stovall, Director of Management and Budget, Amelia Merchant, Budget Administrator, and Brian Townsend, Assistant Manager of Community Development demonstrated the yearly challenges faced by the budget committee. Citizens learned what funds comprise the budget structure. They listened as Stovall explained the procedures each department must follow to justify their yearly budgets. When asked what happens to money left over Stovall said it goes into a “rainy day“ fund. Rating agencies like to see a healthy rainy day fund especially in these economically challenging times. Stovall pointed out that the rating agencies have advised Roanoke City that the Budget Stabilization Fund (rainy day fund) needs to be “more stable.“ Simply put the city needs to keep it‘s hands out of the cookie jar.
The students were then presented with a budget exercise that had expenditures exceeding revenue growth by $4 million. For the exercise, the class was broken into “Budget Committee” groups. Citizens were presented with a list of options and told to balance the budget. The list of options included areas for reduction, ways to increase revenue, expenditure increase requests, and supplemental requests they could axe. With calculators provided the groups went to work.

One group promised “no new taxes” deciding instead to cut city employee pay raises from 3% to 2% and instituting across the board departmental reductions of 2%. Another group took the politically risky course of increasing the real estate tax by a penny. That led to moans by the other groups. All the supplemental requests were targeted for cuts except Fire/EMS.

In the end the citizens finally decided to pass the buck to their legislative representatives and lobby for a larger slice of the Virginia State revenue pie.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Finance

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