Champaign prepares to create budget based on five-year financial forecast

By Angelica Lavito

The Champaign City Council began discussions for next year’s budget at its meeting Tuesday night.

After a presentation about the city’s five-year financial forecast, the council directed staff to prepare a budget for next year that is consistent with the city’s current financial policies and service levels. They additionally proposed to adopt a property tax levy that would remain the same as this year’s.

The five-year financial forecast predicts a good future financial standing for Champaign, according to the study session report.

“This is always our first look before we start the budget process, and I’m pleased to note that some of the things we’re seeing are very good trends,” said City Manager Dorothy David.

Champaign is expected to experience a structural deficit in the future, due to factors such as increasing health care costs. However, this year’s forecast predicted less deficit than previously expected, due to changes the council made throughout the year, including changing the police and fire pension policy.

“You can see, we’re better,” said Molly Talkington, Champaign’s financial service manager and budget officer. “These little changes we’ve made from the forecast to the budget make a difference in where we all are in the following year.”

City council members also voted to move forward with maintaining the current property tax levy rate at $1.31 per $100 of the Equalized Assessed Valuation for 2014, that will be collected in 2015. Revenue from the property tax levy is used to fund pensions, the library, capital improvements and the general fund.

Council members thanked the finance department staff for its work in maintaining the city’s conservative budget.

“We’re not going to be caught short,” said council member Michael LaDue, District 2. “It makes us a sounder investment; it makes us a better bet. It preserves our standing in the financial universe, frankly.”

The finance department will continue working on the budget for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, and the final tax levy for 2014 will be adopted at the an upcoming city council meeting on Dec. 2.

Angelica can be reached at [email protected]