One of my biggest priorities as mayor has been transparency, especially as it applies to the budget.
Council, led by the Finance Committee Chair Sean Davis, has been working on the 2023 budget since their June workshop. In August, Ronny Farmer, the town’s auditor, presented the 2021 Financial Statements, pointing out that the General Fund balance increased by 23.7 percent during 2021.
When I received budget requests from staff, we discussed regular replacement of police cars (these specially equipped vehicles are in service all day, every day, creating predictable wear and tear), town hall security, records management, and street maintenance. There is no end to the number of projects we would like to tackle. The key is prioritizing responsibly considering the limited staff time, while also still being reflective of community needs.
Council asked Lorraine Trotter, of Professional Management Solutions, to look at whether town salaries and benefits were competitive and equitable.
The council then held another workshop in August to synthesize department requests, general revenue forecasts, salary/benefit numbers, and their own goals. They discussed town hall remodel options, aging trees, traffic calming solutions, infrastructure and safety priorities.
We’re lucky to have healthy sales tax revenue, with roughly half of our sales tax income coming from the three dispensaries in town, and the other half from the remaining businesses. Even after necessary salary increases, as well as substantial increases in health insurance spending (we cover 100 percent of the premiums for employees and their dependents), our financial situation is strong. We spend less than we bring in, each year. Fiscally, we are well protected in the event of any unexpected downturn or calamity.
It is important that we do not overspend, of course. But neither do we want to hoard the revenue without making it work for the benefit of the entire community.
The town also applies for grants for various projects. Police Chief Steve Davis is particularly strong in this area and works with his officers and staff to find grants that can help the town. Due to his efforts, we anticipate receiving funds to assist with police equipment and town hall security, among other things. Our Public Works Department is also always on the lookout for grants.
Lastly, council wants to hear from the community. When residents or property owners have questions or suggestions, it is my hope that they will not hesitate to share their thoughts.
I’m proud of town staff and council efforts when it comes to this budget process, especially. And I look forward to leading us into this next year as we repave the alleys, replace aging trees, and work together to manage this beautiful place we all call home.
Emilie Mitcham is the mayor of Mountain View.