Danville budgeting to become pro-active
State financial antics spur 'hands-on' approach
As California continues to try to clean up a budgetary mess that was years in the making, a frequent casualty of these efforts are the cities. State funding to mandated programs may be cut or reduced and in some cases the state will go ahead and take money right out of city coffers to help cover a multi-billion dollar deficit.
This constant fluctuation of funds is leading cities like Danville to change their approach to budgeting and adopt a more watchful stance over their bottom lines.
Danville Town Manager Joe Calabrigo referred to this new process as "adaptive budgeting."
"In the past, we would spend a couple of months leading up to the adoption of a budget by the beginning of June," Calabrigo explained. "Then the council would come back and look at where things stood mid-year. Any adjustments that needed to be made were made, and then you typically wouldn't look at it again until you started the process for the next fiscal year."
Calabrigo said that as they were wrapping up the budget for the new fiscal year he suggested to the Town Council that it may want to revisit the spending plan more often, in order to be ready to respond to any further "takes" by the state.
"This has gone from being a matter you look at a couple of times. I think this idea of approving a financial plan once a year and expecting it to be the same plan at the end of the year is a fallacy at this time of economic upheaval," Calabrigo explained.
He and Town Finance Manager Elizabeth Hudson meet on a weekly basis to examine the town's revenues and expenditures, determining where they stand in relation to their projections and what, if any, corrections might need to be made.
In addition, Calabrigo meets regularly with all of the town's department heads in order to get a sense of what is happening in their respective departments and get a heads-up on any particular problems that may be coming their way.
"When there are significant things to report along to the council, either positive or negative, I communicate that to them," he said.
Specifically regarding finances, though, Calabrigo said he is expecting that they will report more often during public meetings. This is in order to have greater transparency with the public.
"Given the economic conditions that everyone is dealing with, and in some cases struggling with, it's incumbent on us to present the information to them in such a way to let the community know. If we have to cut back on services, they (the public) will be able to see where these cuts are coming from," Calabrigo stated.
Last month the town passed a very lean budget, made possible by a number of cost cutting moves, such as not filling vacant positions, reducing travel expenditures, and not giving pay increases.
Property tax and sales tax revenues continue to be a source of concern, and Calabrigo said all of the signs point to a further dip before there is a recovery.
"I don't know whether we're at the bottom of the curve or if we can expect to see it go lower. From reading the Wall Street Journal and the research I've been doing I'm led to believe that California is lagging behind the rest of the country in the way this recession is affecting us," he said.
The moves they've made with the town financial plan and their goal of keeping a closer eye on the state's movements are expected to help Danville stay above water until the situation improves.
"We haven't exhausted all the chips in our pile," Calabrigo said, "in case the situation gets worse. That way we have something there to offset things."