It's budget season in Hyattsville, and–for the first time in at least three years–city leaders are trying to develop a policy roadmap outlining key areas which they hope will guide the city's fiscal priorities in the new year.
"This past budget cycle, we just simply did a budget exercise without going back and evaluating what transpired in the last year," said Mayor Marc Tartaro to City Council last night. "So we're trying to get back to that process, we're trying to create a document by which we can work from."
So, , city staff and elected leaders embarked upon an initial hour-and-a-half long review of a series of strategic goals, action items and performance measures, first adopted in December 2009 by city council, as the foundation for this year's budget negotiations. It was the first of at least three meetings slated to discuss Hyattsville's budget priorities for fiscal year 2013.
Hyattsville City Treasurer Elaine Stookey told the city council that the goal-setting process, backed up by performance metrics, will help city leaders evaluate the effectiveness of city services and determine where improvements are needed while also giving direction to city staff and highlighting exceptional city departments.
"It will help us define success in our service efforts," said Stookey, adding that the process would help motivate continual improvements and justify future budget line items.
"You are what you measure," said Stookey.
Hyattsville's fiscal year 2012 budget was about $22 million.
The 2009 goals were broken down across five areas:
- Ensuring transparent and accessible governance.
- Ensuring the long-term health of the city.
- Enhancing a safe and pleasant community,
- Fostering excellence in muncipal operations
- Strengthening Hyattsville's identity as a "diverse, creative and welcoming community."
City councilmembers spent the majority of the budget goal discussion focusing on and making revisions to the action items and performance measures included in each of those goals. Their main focus, it seemed, was to make sure that the goals, action items and performance measures were not redundant. Thus began a wonkish parsing of each of the action items. The full 2009 Strategic Goals and Actions document which the discussion focused on can be viewed in the PDF attached to this article.
City leaders will need at least one more meeting to continue hashing out the specifics of those goals, actions and performance measures. Last night's meeting saw the city council only get about two-fifths of the way through their review of the 2009 strategic goals and action plan. Earlier in the meeting, the city council unanimously approved a special council session for next Monday, Jan. 30 at 8 p.m. in Hyattsville's Municipal Building to continue the discussion.
Following that, there is also another goal-setting discussion slated for Monday, Feb. 6. Another two goal-setting sessions are tentatively slated for Monday, Feb. 13 and Monday, Feb. 21 if necessary.
By March 16, city leaders could have their first glimpse of an official fiscal year 2013 budget. A public presentation of the fiscal year 2013 budget is slated for March 19. Then, on March 26, a public hearing is scheduled to discuss property taxes. If all goes smoothly, the budget could be approved by the end of April.
Tartaro has high hopes for the new budget process.
"I'm optimistic that if we get through this part of it, then the other budget part, the goal that we've set, is to get the budget done by April 23 or the end of April," said Tartaro. "That will be five to six weeks ahead of schedule."