City unveils new, easy to use budget document

Saturday, May 21, 2011 | 6:54 p.m. CDT; updated 1:20 p.m. CDT, Monday, September 19, 2011

COLUMBIA — City Budget Officer Laura Peveler and Finance Director John Blattel unveiled a newly reformatted budget document at the City Council Mini-Retreat on Saturday.

The budget document was reformatted in response to a January request by the Columbia City Council to make the document easier to use, Peveler said.

“We started out back then and did a complete re-write, which I thought should have taken about a year but we did it in a few months. … I’m very glad,” she said.

The next step is to prepare the 2012 budget document with the new formatting, Peveler said.

Blattel said this is a major departure from the previous budget document.

Ward 1 Councilman Fred Schmidt said the new formatting is a positive step.

“This is a huge achievement,” Schmidt said. “It’s a lot clearer, we have a better sense of where we are. … This is good.”

Peveler said the two main audiences who will benefit from the new formatting are the council members and the public.

The goal is to make sure “we have the right information, at the right level, to make the decisions or to understand the operations,” she said.

Several changes distinguish the new budget document from the old version. Peveler said the new document is organized around functional groups, whereas the previous document was organized according to departments.

“The average citizen may not know that transit is under Public Works or that sewer is under Public Works,” she said.

The new format also distinguishes between general funding sources, which can be moved between departments, and dedicated funding sources, which are appointed for a specific function, Peveler said.

“We’ve never really presented that information in a budget document form before,” she said, “and so it’s really gonna give the council a lot more information when they look at a department to see … how much … is general source funded or dedicated.”

Peveler said other changes include trend information and statements of funding sources and funding uses.

“People can understand, here’s the money coming in, here’s the money going out," she said. "We’ve way simplified that."

Peveler also said the new format will provide context for understanding increasing rates and fares.

“We’re trying to pick up what are the pieces of information that somebody needs to know," she said. "What do we have to give them so that they have a good understanding of the operation.”

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