GOVERNMENT GEARS: The process behind the city budget

PHOTO: The city’s newly picked city manager Suzanne Ludlow and pages of her budget.

GOVERNMENT GEARS • BY NAOMI EIDE

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Park of a continuing series by Naomi Eide focusing on how Takoma Park city government works.

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APRIL 6: After months of preparation, the city manager is presenting the proposed Takoma Park city budget to city council at this week’s regular Monday meeting.

Suzanne Ludlow, the newly appointed city manager, said all meetings leading up to the budget presentations in April help make sure that everyone is on the same page for the Takoma Park budget.

The city budget process begins in late fall with council discussions about general priorities for the city. In Jan. the city manager, along with the finance and human resources directors, talk with each department about the next year’s budget, including big issues and projects or potential staff needs, Ludlow said.

In late January and early February the council has a couple of retreats to look at the big picture of where the city is heading and priorities the council has for the city, such as environmental sustainability or economic development, Ludlow said.

In Feb. major departments meet with the council at the department roundtables to answer questions about how those departments work and to present trends, obstacles or opportunities in their field, Ludlow said.

After months of preparation, the new city manager is presenting the proposed Takoma Park city budget to city council Monday April 6, 2015.

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The city manager’s proposed budget can be viewed here.

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In March, the city manager works with departments to look, number by number, at what the department has budgeted for different projects, Ludlow said.  During these meetings, the city manager tells departments what will not fit in next year’s budget.

Also in early March, the city manager meets with councilmembers individually to ask about their support for positions and different projects. Ludlow said these meetings allow the city manager to hear what the councilmembers are interested in and potential initiatives they want to see in future budgets.

The city will hold two budget meetings a week in April, starting with the 2016 fiscal year budget presentation on April 6. Ludlow said they encourage public comment during the budget presentations to make sure they are making the right progress towards the Takoma Park that everybody wants.

The city will send the budget to Montgomery County near the end of May, following a council vote. Fiscal Year 2016 begins on July 1, 2015.

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More in the Government Gears series:
Acting Again: Suzanne Ludlow’s role as acting city manager, the second time around.
Nights of the Roundtable: Roundtable meetings are a relatively new part of the budget process.

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About the Author

Naomi Eide
Naomi Eide is Washington state native who spent her college years and beyond wandering the East Coast. She received her undergraduate degree from Providence College in Rhode Island where she studied history and music. Following a year working in corporate America, Naomi left her full-time job for the University of Maryland where she is currently pursuing her Masters of Journalism.