Municipal budget awarded |

Municipal budget awarded

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Six months after the toughest municipal budget talks in years, a national organization has honored City Hall’s spending plan.

The Chicago-based Government Finance Officers Association bestowed on City Hall a Distinguished Budget Presentation Award, according to a memo recently distributed to Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council.

Bret Howser, City Hall’s budget officer, said the municipal government has received the honor every other year since 1997. The cycle reflects City Hall’s two-year budgeting calendar.

Howser said the award recognizes the manner in which a budget is presented, including long-term policies and performance measures that are in place in the City Hall financial document.

"The Budget, Debt, and Grants Department is very excited about this acknowledgment," the memo to the elected officials said.

According to Howser, the Chicago organization noted City Hall’s plans to react to the recession. He said the organization called the recession plan a model for other governments. The association indicated the recession plan is "impressive and extraordinarily well-conceived," Howser said.

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"We suspected it was so, but it’s nice to have that validation," he said.

The recession plan has twice been put into action since the national economy faltered.

City Hall currently is operating in an alert status, which puts officials in a position of trying to make up shortfalls by more tightly monitoring the budget and delaying expenses when it is able to while maintaining the same level of government services.

"The award represents a significant achievement by the entity. It reflects the commitment of the governing body and staff to meeting the highest principles of governmental budgeting," the association said in granting City Hall the award, according to the memo. "In order to receive the budget award, the entity had to satisfy nationally recognized guidelines for effective budget presentation."

The recognition comes in the middle of City Hall’s fiscal year, and there are indications that the upcoming budget talks, which will start in the spring, could be difficult as well. Officials have said, as an example, key revenue sources like fees brought in by the Building, Planning and Engineering departments have fallen to approximately half of what had been budgeted.