Municipal budgets follow a three-step process before they are formally approved, the same three steps as most ordinances adopted by the city.
First, through workshops and internal discussions, the city drafts a proposed budget and introduces it to the public during an initial reading before the City Council.
Then, the public is invited to step up to the microphone to share input — although that typically isn’t the only chance for the public to speak out, it’s the last chance before hitting the state-imposed deadline for budgets to be finalized. That hearing is set for Aug. 20 at 7 p.m. at 8116 Park View Blvd.
The final step, expected to be finished by the city on Sept. 2, is discussion and a final vote by the City Council. Officials then submit the budget to the county clerk and Nebraska Auditor of Public Accounts by the state’s Sept. 20 deadline.
Budgets typically are presented to the public either with praise for officials who made cuts and resisted the temptation to raise taxes or an detailed explanation of why no alternatives exist to prevent an up-tick on the tax levy.
While La Vista’s proposed $29.8 million budget would hold property taxes at 55 cents — although a separate proposal to raise taxes is on the table to raise funds for the redevelopment of 84th Street — officials expressed caution.
Mayor Doug Kindig told the City Council last week that an unexpected $2.4 million tax refund to an undisclosed company that the state announced at the end of the city’s budget process could have ripple effects as La Vista “moves into the unknown” with its future.
“We may have some very tough decisions to make,” Kindig said. “La Vista is financially prepared for this with the cash reserve, but it’s very hard to prepare for this in the second and third year.”
Kindig asked all city employees to find additional ways to save money and focus on the city’s main priorities.
“As we move into the unknown, I think we would be very wise to be conservative in our approach,” Kindig said.
Councilman Tony Gowan said the hit from the tax refund came “out of the blue.”
“Our staff is motivated enough to come back and understand what we’re trying to deal with,” Gowan said.
Further tax rebates may be coming, Kindig said. Echoing Benjamin Franklin’s famous “death and taxes” quote, Councilman Kelly Sell quipped that the only certainties are “death and tax rebates.”
Moving forward, with tight cash reserves, Kindig said La Vista has been fiscally conservative for years.
He said he wants the city’s staff to understand that planned and future cuts aren’t the city’s fault. However, he said it will be up to the city to further control its spending.