The City of St. Charles has commenced the process of preparing the FY12-13 budget. Over the next few weeks, city staff will be working dutifully to compile the budget and present it to the City Council for approval.
Frequently, I hear comments that the City needs to “be like the private sector and learn to do more with less.” Certainly in these challenging economic times it is absolutely essential for governments to be good stewards of public tax dollars. What concerns me, however, is that residents may not be aware of the extent that the City of St Charles has indeed learned to “do more with less” over the last few fiscal years.
For instance, did you realize that during the period between April 30, 2008 and April 30, 2010, the City cut $5 million in expenditures from the General Fund Expenditure levels fell from $42.7 million in 2008 to $37.7 million in 2010. This represents an 11.9% reduction in General Fund expenditures during that 24-month period. This reduction was highlighted by a wage freeze that each and every employee of the City took during fiscal year 2009-2010. This resulted in over $1.2 million of savings to the taxpayer. Other measures undertaken were suspension of the spring clean-up program, elimination of travel and training, deferral of vehicle replacement funding, and deferring or eliminating various capital and maintenance projects.
The City continues to benefit from these expenditure reduction efforts. City expenditures in the General Fund for fiscal year 2011 were just under $40 million or $2.7 million lower than they were in 2008. That equates to a 6.30% reduction. Additionally, the City has eliminated the equivalent of 54 full-time positions from its payroll. This 16% staffing reduction was achieved through attrition of positions and did not involve layoff of employees.
Projections for the current fiscal year ending April 30, 2012 reflect that the City will end the year with an estimated expenditure level of $40.2 million, approximately 6% lower than the fiscal 2008 level. This would mark the fourth consecutive fiscal year that expenditures would be lower than the fiscal 2008 level. Additionally, this represents a miniscule 0.5% increase in expenditure levels over fiscal year 2011.
The City has managed its revenue sources in a similarly prudent manner. For calendar year 2012, the City is maintaining its operating property tax levy at a consistent level of approximately $12 million for the third straight year. This means that the City is not asking its taxpayers to pay more in property taxes to the City for the third consecutive year. Many property owners have seen the City portion of their property tax bills decline.
The City’s fiscal responsibility was noted by Moody’s ratings service which affirmed the City’s Aa1 debt rating in September of 2011. Moody’s cited “strong financial operations and solid reserve levels,” as well as noting in its report the City’s “demonstrated history of reacting to budgetary challenges.”
The City’s guiding fiscal principle during these challenging economic times has been to “match our expenditure level to the level of our revenues.” The attached table reflects just how successful those efforts have been.
Everyone has been impacted by these challenging economic times. Recognizing and reacting to the situation in a timely manner has been essential to the City’s ability to maintain its fiscal health. We have quietly and efficiently gone about the business of reducing expenditures to coincide with the level of revenues expected. This process has been so quiet and efficient, you may not even have been aware it was occurring.