City unveils upbeat budget projections

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During a budget workshop Sept. 16 in city council chambers, City Manager John Danielson reported that Centennial's current financial condition is strong, bolstered by an economic recovery that continues to gain steam while generating greater-than-expected city revenues.

Current year sales, auto use and building-materials use taxes are all coming in higher than originally projected, said Dawn Priday, the city's finance director/chief financial officer.

Priday said her office is “projecting increases in property and sales taxes in 2014.”

“We try to be very cautious and conservative in projecting revenues,” said Priday. “And we don't plan to spend the money until we actually have collected it.”

A report from the city's Citizen Budget Committee highlighting “strong revenues and high fund balances” confirmed the generally rosy picture. But the same report warned of “a number of looming capital projects” slated for 2014.

Priday told councilmembers the city's revised 2013 budget has sales tax coming in $1.5 million over initial projections and auto use taxes surprising on the upside by $400,000.

Meanwhile, healthier-than-originally-expected sales and property taxes (based on preliminary assessed valuations) are expected to bolster the 2014 budget numbers, Priday projected next year's budget could see an overall increase of $400,000 in additional revenues.

Danielson has been Centennial's city manager since 2012. He came to the city during a more turbulent time and orchestrated a series of RIFs — reduction in force cutbacks — that saw city staff reduced by more than 15 percent.

In 2014, Danielson wants to add 3.5 new positions to city staff, including a new full-time communications director who could earn as much as $134,000 a year with salary and benefits.

Among other key duties, Danielson said the new communications director would be responsible for taking the city's “award-winning website that's almost ready for prime time to the next level” as well as polishing the city's “brand” and being Centennial's media spokesperson and social media guru.

“This is a key position and we need to find just the right person,” said the city manager when Councilmembers Keith Gardner and Rebecca McClellan questioned the six-figure salary tied to the proposed new position.

Danielson reported the city had undertaken $13 million in street repair and rehabilitation during the past two years and said that if voters approve the city's plan to upgrade its fiber optics network, “it is going to be a tremendous undertaking” that would keep one proposed new management analyst busy “full time for at least a year.”

“We have a very big year planned” for 2014, Danielson said. “Whatever we've asked for (in the 2014 budget) is pretty essential and a basic minimum.”

During more than four hours of budget discussions, city councilmembers gave their initial approval to the majority of Danielson's proposals.

Both the revised 2013 budget and proposed 2014 budget are expected to get final approval at a Nov. 4 regular city council meeting.

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