Mayor Curtis proposes trimmed down 2013–14 budget

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Provo Mayor John Curtis placed a high priority on funding for new roads and city vehicles in his presentation to city council this month. Curtis also proposed more than $400,000 in budget cuts for 2013-14. (Graphic illustration by Jenn Cardenas)
Provo Mayor John Curtis placed a high priority on funding for new roads and city vehicles in his presentation to city council this month. Curtis also proposed more than $400,000 in budget cuts for 2013-14. (Graphic illustration by Jenn Cardenas)

Mayor John Curtis emphasized cautious spending and balanced finances during his presentation to city council of the tentative budget earlier this month.

“Every dollar that comes into us is held with a great trust,” Mayor Curtis said of the $168 million budget. “The people give their trust to us, as elected officials, to make this budget.”

The proposed budget, which guides Provo’s finances from July 1, 2013, until June 30, 2014, includes a 2.5 percent fund cut across all city departments. The significant $409,000 cut is due to Provo City’s goal to keep the budget balanced despite a slowly recovering economy.

“Provo has a balanced budget,” Curtis said. “That’s something our federal agencies could learn from, but we won’t get into that.”

Starting last August, a Budget Review Committee made up of Curtis, Councilman Kay Van Buren, two volunteer Provo citizens and two city employees convened weekly to discuss the upcoming budget’s details. The committee ultimately crafted this year’s budget after individually reviewing each department’s concerns.

“As a citizen, it was a great opportunity for me to see how much work goes into preparing a budget,” said Randy Christiansen, chairman of the committee. “From the very beginning, the mayor’s goal was to come up with a budget that is sustainable not just for this year, but in the coming years. It was an impressive thing to be involved with.”

Last year, the council approved a 4 percent increase in energy rates. But after a careful review of all energy costs, Curtis announced that only a 2 percent increase would be necessary for 2013–2014. In all, various departments made 28 budget requests totaling over $12 million, but only $200,000 of the requested money was granted.

“I really feel like this is a good budget,” said John Borget, Provo’s director of administrative services. “We really made a lot of smart decisions.”

Borget cited rising fuel costs citywide and costly utilities for public facilities as the greatest unforeseen costs in the 2012–2013 budget.

Despite the new cuts, the 2013–2014 budget will fund 78 new city vehicles to be purchased and set aside $1.4 million to upgrade aging roads.

Provo will also continue its gradual 5 percent rate increase in water utilities. The city is currently in the third of five years of instituting that increase.

Due to this year’s rising health care costs and the Affordable Care Act, the city saw a sharp 8 percent increase in health insurance costs in 2012–2013. As a result, Curtis proposed an option for city employees to choose the extent of coverage they want.

The proposed budget, which is available online at www.provo.org, will be open to public hearings during the next two city council meetings. The budget will then be placed before city council for approval no later than June 22.

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