Heading into the end of summer, Solon’s Finance Department is developing a 2020 budget, including changing some of the ways it is communicated and reported.
Finance Director Matthew Rubino explained last week some of the changes, which includes moving up the capital planning process and thus giving City Council a preliminary look at the capital budget requests prior to the regular November hearings. That preliminary overview will be presented at 5 p.m. Sept. 5.
At the preliminary hearing, Mr. Rubino will provide a basic capital plan that is based on a compilation of all of the budget requests.
“This will give council the ability to see the plan in advance and solicit feedback for priorities,” Mr. Rubino said. “They will also have the ability to provide some commentary and see some things they may want to move up in the plan,” Mr. Rubino said.
Departments currently are working on revisiting or refreshing their capital improvement plan for 2020, but also for four years beyond that.
Another change to the regular budget hearings in November will be to incorporate additional departmental participation, Mr. Rubino continued. Current practice involves Mr. Rubino presenting both the operating and capital budget to City Council. They may do a follow up hearing including directors who may come to field questions on their budget. This will be determined in the fall.
“It will all depend on the feedback I get from members of council,” Mr. Rubino said.
If they do decide to have additional departmental participation, it will be based on specific proposals for their 2020 budget, he added.
Mr. Rubino also said there will be more of a focus on performance measures in the budget documents, including specific statistics for each department.
“We will continue to try to add emphasis on not only the budget dollars allocated, but the measures each department uses,” he said. “A lot of this is still in development. We are spending time now plotting out how we may change some of the reporting and communication of the budget.
Also related to capital and operations, a more pronounced look is being given to facilities in general. That includes dollars spent on those facilities the city owns as well as what is spent on their utilities, including natural gas, electricity and water.
“We are trying to be more strategic in how we plan for facilities in general and also how the investments made on the buildings impacts our general budget,” he said.
Plans are to do an overall evaluation of all city-owned buildings over the next three years.
“This is a larger, more strategic type of project,” Mr. Rubino said.
High-level objectives related to the budget, typically adopted in mid-December, include achieving a structural balance of revenues and expenditures while continuing to build reserves and maintain service levels as well as add to them and improve them.
“We are also looking at what departments can do within the budget to innovate or change how they are delivering a service,” Mr. Rubino said. “This doesn’t mean they have to request additional dollars, but (possibly) re-program those dollars.”
Solon has an operating or general budget of about $45 million. All funds, including general, capital and special revenue, are between $80 million and $90 million depending on the year.