By Dave Fidlin

With the halfway mark of 2014 fast approaching, Whitewater officials are beginning to ramp up discussion of the city’s municipal budget in 2015.

City Manager Cameron Clapper briefly discussed the budget-building process with the Common Council at their most recent meeting May 20. A previously drafted timeline is slightly delayed, he said, but discussions are underway.

Unlike prior years, city officials are kicking off budget deliberations earlier this year. Issues, such as the eleventh hour decision in whether – and to what extent – the Innovation Express mass transit system is funded by city dollars, is part of the reason for the earlier review.

At this point, dollar figures are not part of the discussion between city management and elected officials. Instead, a more cursory overview of the city’s priorities and the organization’s mission statement are being discussed.

An initial draft of the city’s budget review timeline had called for a discussion of the city’s five-year capital improvement plans during the May 20 meeting.

“Staff is currently about three weeks off the previously planned schedule, which may require shifting some dates for future meetings and milestones,” Clapper said.

Plans call for the CIP discussion to begin in earnest next month, either at the June 3 or June 17 meeting.

Conceptually, plans also call for city staff and the council to hash over already written priorities, vision statements and the overall mission statement for the city as a whole.

But council member Ken Kidd implored Clapper and his elected colleagues not to get bogged down in verbiage as the heavy lifting begins taking place.

“I think there’s a lot of work to be done, and I don’t think we should spend time on a mission statement,” Kidd said. “Let’s do work that’s more meaty.”

The existing mission statement is succinct and reads, “The City of Whitewater provides efficient and high-quality services, which support living, learning, playing and working in an exceptional community.”

In addition to the impending CIP discussion, the council agreed to a proposal to bring in a facilitator, Rick Bayer, from Cities and Villages Mutual Insurance Co. to discuss strategic priorities. Clapper said Bayer offers expertise that will assist in prioritizing the city’s budgetary needs in 2015 and beyond.

An initial draft of strategic priorities was created out of a workshop last year. The list included such goals as fostering an environment of affordable, single-family homes, expanding library and fire services and creating closer relations with the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

“These priorities were intended to guide the development of future goals and objectives,” Clapper said. “Is there a need to update these priorities, or do they still encompass all issues that need to be addressed in the budget cycle?”

Unlike prior years, the council plans to hold two regular meetings in July. The first, on July 1, will likely be devoted exclusively to a discussion with Bayer. Clapper said issues raised out of the meeting could be hashed over in greater detail at the second regular meeting July 15.

Plans call for the city’s budget deliberation process to extend through mid-November when a formal public hearing is held and budget adoption is anticipated.


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