The Lathrop City Council will authorize their annual budget for fiscal year 2016-17 in June.
And they’ll also decide then whether they want to move to a multi-year budget at the same time in order to reduce the workload on staff that spends a large portion of every year making sure the budget is ready.
According to City Manager Steve Salvatore, Lathrop’s finance staff starts working on preparations six months in advance. By the time everything is passed, that’s only half-a-year until the entire process starts over again.
“We start preparing the budget in January and that process goes until June – and it takes a substantial amount of city resources to prepare that budget for council consideration,” Salvatore said. “If we do that and put together a two-year budget in the same amount of time, it allows us some freedom in staff time to do other things.”
But while the council voted unanimously to approve the mid-year budget amendments and bring the item back for discussion in June, there was some skepticism about how the entire thing would work.
Councilman Paul Akinjo said that he was worried that switching to a multi-year budget – something he said he had never heard of a city doing before – could affect the transparency of the city’s fiscal process and possibly make it harder for residents to understand where the money is being spent.
Salvatore pointed out, however, that the only thing that would change would the length of time between when the actual full budget is prepared. The city currently prepares mid-year budget reviews – like the one the council voted on last week – and would stretch that out to include an end-of-year review, essentially giving council three updates before the next cycle began again.
As many as 50 percent of cities, districts and other municipalities in California, according to the staff report, have adopted multi-year budgets in order to save time and make more efficient use of staff resources.
All of the city’s spending and income, Salvatore said, would still remain open to the public and transparent the same that it currently is.