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City's budget preparations will be a line item by line item process

Interim City Manager Frank Sweet presented the current financial situation to the Sunnyside City Council last night at the first workshop held by the council to address the 2013 budget.

In a slim handout, Sweet laid out stark problems with the 2012 budget, including a more than $1 million difference between the budgeted revenue and what is actually likely to be collected this year.

Sweet said previous budgets seemed to have revenues set to balance expenditures instead of the other way around. He also found during the process of sorting out line items that many departments did not know how much money they had to spend.

"What we're seeing is a convoluted mess, so to speak, with the budget that we're straightening out," he said.

He mentioned the recent state audit, and how items were not allocated to the proper departments. He also said the city needs to figure out how to save funds for capital projects.

"It's not a wonderful picture," he said. "But I think the bright side of it is, as we go through this 2013 budget every department will understand their budget, I think better than they have. The council will understand it. And then we're all accountable for that budget.

"It's pretty difficult to hold somebody accountable for a budget they didn't have any input in," he added.

He spoke about changing the culture of spending in the city to be more aware of the budget limits. He said he wants to add more accountability for each department to the system.

"Obviously, this isn't the type of report I like bringing to you," Sweet said. "But it's the actual facts of what's going on and what has gone on."

Sweet said the council would be going through the budget line by line.

"I think what we need to do is we need to build credibility, with not only you folks, but with the community, of what's in our budget and how we're managing it," said Sweet. "I think the only way to do that is go right down to the baseline and start building it back up, line item by line item."

Deputy Mayor Don Vlieger countered that expenditures have matched the expected revenues, arguing that the council has been working within the budget numbers they had been given.

Councilman Nick Paulakis asked Sweet if the city would be continuing to keep looking for grants and extra funding. Sweet said the city is always looking for such opportunities.

Councilman Jim Restucci questioned some of the numbers for information technology as presented by Sweet. The interim city manager pointed out that city employees are continuing to sort out allocations to make sure every line item is accounted for in the budget, but that some items are still in the wrong departments.

"One thing you will find by the time we are through with this 2013 budget is that we will all know where everything is at, and what everything costs, and how it will be handled," Sweet said.

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