In handling the budget, the City of Brazil is trying something new.
"We are in the process of conducting numerous work sessions prior to our actual budget hearing," Brazil Mayor Ann Bradshaw said. "It is giving me, (Clerk-Treasurer) Karen McQueen and the council a chance to meet with each of the department heads to discuss line items, expenditures and other issues."
Bradshaw, who served nearly four full terms on the Common Council of the City of Brazil before becoming mayor, added the council has been uninformed about the budget for as long as she could remember.
"I felt that the council was left out of the loop in the past," she said. "Previous administrations had either set the budget themselves or the mayor and clerk-treasurer got together to determine the budget and presented it to the council without any discussions."
So far, the council has conducted two work sessions and has a third one scheduled for Oct. 9, at 6 p.m., in the Council Chambers at City Hall. The sessions have varied in start times to accommodate the schedules of not only the department heads, but the public as well.
"By having work sessions at different times, it allows the council to meet with department heads without taking them away from time on the job," McQueen said. "Also, it gives the public multiple opportunities to see how the budget is determined and what their tax dollars are paying for."
Both McQueen and Bradshaw agreed the sessions have been extra helpful as they have provided an additional outlet to propose ways to create a larger flow of revenue into the city.
"Property taxes and additional outlets for revenue drive what our budget looks like," McQueen said. "With the city getting its finances in line again, we will be able to submit accurate figures to the state and have a certified budget for next year."
McQueen added she has been able to provide a detailed list of budget balances and where each department has spent money this year.
"Seeing each department's expenses in detail has been a huge benefit," Bradshaw said. "It gives the council the ability to question department heads on how and why they have spent funds in the way they have."
While the work sessions have been effective so far, McQueen said the effects of House Bill 1001 and the Circuit Breaker caps will make the process more difficult in the coming years.
"All of the departments will come in within their budgets this year," she said. "However, there will be about a $16,000 cut in the city's property tax revenue in 2009 and a cut of about $140,000 in 2000 because of the setup of the caps in House Bill 1001."
Bradshaw agreed the Circuit Breaker will tighten the strings of the city to a certain effect and is taking preventative measures now.
"We are still closely watching the spending and discussing a hiring freeze," she said. "The Police Department is looking to hire a new officer, but one will probably not be officially hired, partly due to the long process of placing an officer on the force, until after the start of the new year."
As a whole, both McQueen and Bradshaw told The Brazil Times the change in finalizing the budget has been a positive one.
"From what I have seen, it has been great because I can see everyone caring," McQueen said. "The change in the process has been extremely beneficial because it has allowed all parties involved to understand the budget better."
She also understands the public has a tendency to critique every move the city makes and encourages them to become involved as well.
"The public has a lot of questions as to how the budget is set and these sessions can go a long way to answering them," McQueen said. "But we are always open to suggestions and love hearing the opinions of the residents whether it be questioning what was purchased or ideas to create additional revenue to benefit the city and its citizens. However, the public needs to attend and speak up to have their voices heard."
In addition to the Oct. 9 work session, the council will conduct the budget hearing, with its first reading at its regular meeting Oct. 14, and the second reading at its regular Nov. 11 meeting. Both meetings will take place at 7 p.m., in the Council Chambers at City Hall.