Village officials are hopeful the municipal budget process will operate more efficiently in 2014, with the council’s approval last month of streamlining recommendations from the newly formed Financial Advisory Committee.
The committee first presented six recommendations to the council in November, including a goal of shortening the timeline for developing the budget and the preparation of detailed departmental summaries for the village’s elected officials.
Deputy Mayor Albert Pucciarelli, the council’s liaison to the committee, said the recommendations could cut in half a “protracted process” that currently runs nearly year-round, with capital budget requests following on the heels of the council’s adoption of a regular operating budget.
Departmental summaries, officials say, would also help the council locate cost centers in the budget. Members of the committee have described the summaries as brief outlines of a department's share of the municipality's expenses.
“Now we receive those budgets in different formats and, frankly, unless you’ve been in civil service and government for a long time, they’re not the easiest documents to understand,” Pucciarelli said last month.
The committee has also recommended that the capital and operating budget processes coincide, so that the true costs represented by deteriorating equipment and facilities can be better tracked.
Among the other recommendations the committee presented was that its members sit in on departmental meetings in the early stages of crafting the budget. Officials were hesitant on that proposal, though Pucciarelli and Roberta Sonenfeld, the committee’s vice chairperson, stressed their role would not be intervening in the process.
“Their very presence might be an intervention of some sort,” Mayor Paul Aronsohn remarked. “I’m not sold on you actually being in the room.”
That recommendation would have been too late for the 2014 budget cycle, regardless. Departmental meetings had been scheduled to finish within days of the council moving forward with the recommendations at its Dec. 11 meeting, said Heather Mailander, the acting village manager.
She and the village’s chief financial officer have been meeting with the committee to begin implementing the recommendations.
“Some of the stuff we’re discussing tonight, we’ve already started working on,” Sonenfeld said.