CARLSBAD — The city kicked off its new budget process with a public workshop.
On March 4, 37 residents joined department heads and analysts in roundtable discussions to give input into what concerns should be addressed in the next budget cycle.
Laura Rocha, the city’s administrative services director, who oversees the budget process, said the feedback is helping with budget priorities, aligning with community values and the city’s goals.
The main goal for the public feedback is to gather the information while staff is working on the budget, rather than waiting until May, as in previous years, after the draft budget has been released.
“It went really well and we had great feedback from the public,” she said. “We had enough time for discussions on priorities and what those common core values were.”
Seven issues were identified through the two-hour session including, in order, environmental sustainability, parks and recreation, mobility, arts and culture, improve technology, promote a healthy business climate and address neighborhood nuisances. In addition, the city also has a survey, which replicates the questions presented from staff to residents.
Residents were asked to assume the current level of service in each of these areas will stay the same next year, according to Roxanne Muhlmeister, finance manager for the city. Then, residents were asked to circle three they want enhanced, beyond what they currently experience living in Carlsbad.
“We saw a lot that the Village and Barrio was important,” Muhlmeister added, “traffic management, trails and open space, enhancements to parks and recreation programs. Also, coastal enhancements was up there. Those were talked about most at the tables.”
The City Council approved a new goal-setting method earlier this year, which reorganizes the timeline and structure of the process to align with the budget process.
The new timeline includes the budget process, including public input in February and March, from January through May. From June through August, more public input is taken, with goal setting in September and October and work plans crafted in November and December.
In addition, the council will meet every two years, instead of one, to reassess and perhaps set new goals.
As for the budget, all city departments filed their preliminary budgets on March 1, Rocha said. However, it is too early to determine whether the operating and Capital Improvement Program budgets could expect to increase or decrease, she explained.
“The budget is the most important policy document that you can have in a city because it defines the work plans,” Rocha said. “We will go forth and enhance that.” She said she and budget team, including Muhlmeister, will review those departmental budgets and then submit those to City Manager Scott Chadwick. Chadwick will also review the budget, along with the budget management team, and prioritize those budgets before presenting the draft budget to the City Council in May.