City sets pre-budget session

Monday, April 9, 2012

McCOOK, Nebraska -- The McCook City Council and city staff will share their visions for the future of the City of McCook during a strategic planning session Tuesday evening at Heritage Senior Center. The meeting is intended to provide useful budgeting information and generate a direction to city department heads prior to beginning their budgeting process.

Attendees have been asked to be prepared to share their dreams for the area over the next 10 to 15 years, in addition to their greatest concerns. The meeting is scheduled from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and will be open to the public.

The meeting represents changes to the city's budgeting process implemented by first year City Manager Jeff Hancock. Hancock explained to the Gazette that his goal was to put more of the focus on the pre-planning stages of the budgeting process by coordinating public hearings and strategic planning sessions prior to city staff drafting their proposed budget.

Hancock said the public input period, when all is said and done, will be relatively the same. He explained that he wanted more energy put into creating a strategic plan for the budget, which would then be the driving force for the city budget that is drafted.

"We are then driving towards action steps to meet the major goals of the council and the accountability piece will be to report back to the council and the public with our progress," said Hancock, who believed the progress would be visible in the proposed budget.

Historically councilors scheduled three budget workshops during which department heads would review what they had drafted for their individual departments. Budget input was then received from the city councilors and the public during these workshops, which in some scenarios required department heads to make adjustments.

The adjustments to the proposed budget continued throughout the three workshops and in many cases occurred during each of the three public readings of the budget. It was not uncommon for revisions to be made during the third and final reading of the budget.

While the ability to make revisions to the budget during the three public readings will still be an option, Hancock hopes that increased planning and communication in the earlier stages of the process will reduce the occurrence of those revisions significantly.

Hancock said he believes that redirecting the focus and outside input on budgeting details, to the earlier stages of the process, will provide a system that is more capable of addressing the long-term goals of the city.

"Rather than diving into the nitty gritty of the actual budget, my plan is to not only budget for one year, but for a three and five year plan. Then come back every year and see how we are doing. I think it's just good business," said Hancock.

Hancock said the city planned to schedule a separate budget retreat, likely at the Senior Center and also open to the public, at the end of May or early June that would allow department directors to go over their needs with the council.

Hancock has also set his sights on creating a five year capital improvement plan that would list all of the projects that the city would like to accomplish. He anticipates to begin gathering public input for that in the spring of 2013.

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