By Austin Bleess, City Manager
As the City gets into budget season once again it comes on the heels of more great news for the City of Caribou. Just this week the City was named by SmartAsset (a New York based financial technology company) as the second most tax-friendly places for retirees in Maine. Earlier this year that same company named Caribou as the most affordable place to live in Maine. This is great recognition for the City and highlights the hard work done by the City to have a reasonable budget.
Back in 2011 when the citizens of Caribou voted to approve a new City Charter one of the things that was changed the most was how the City does its budgeting. Starting in September the first report is due. This report lists out every single line item in the budget with a three year average of actual expenditures, previous year’s expense budget, previous year’s actual expenditure, current year expense budget, first eight months actual expenditures, and an annualized actual expenditure based on the eight month actual expenditure. This report is available to the public both on the city website and at City Hall.
It is this budget information that the department heads and I use in creating the budget for the coming year. We go over each line in the budget, examine them, and make adjustments where it is necessary. Some lines are decreased and some are increased. Either way the changes are justified using the historical expense numbers and by looking ahead to what the priorities are. It is this meticulous and thoughtful approach that has helped us earn the distinction of the most affordable place to live in Maine and the second most tax-friendly place for retirees in Maine.
On October 15 the first draft of the 2016 budget will be published on the website and will be available in City Hall as well. This budget lists each and every line item in the budget. It is this draft of the budget that the Department Heads and I will present to you the citizens and the City Council in the budget public forums. These public forums are held in the City Council Chambers and start at 6pm on Monday October 19th, Tuesday October 20th, and Wednesday October 21st. At these public forums you can ask questions, find out how all the budget numbers are arrived at, and make comments and suggestions on the budget as well.
There is also the formal public hearing on the budget which will be held November 9th during the City Council meeting. As with all public hearings, citizens can come and voice their concerns and comments to the Council at this time.
The final budget likely will not be approved until December, which means there will likely be changes made to the budget between what is presented on October 15th and what gets adopted for 2016. Throughout the process we will be posting revisions of the budget to the website for public review.
One of the great things about local government is that citizens have direct access to city officials and can have your voice heard at every meeting. I encourage you to be a part of the process as we move through the 2016 budgeting process.
Austin Bleess has been the City Manager of Caribou since October 2012. He can be reached at 493-3324 x230 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.