What is critical for 2021? Fairfield council looking toward next year’s budget with uncertainties

Fairfield City Council is expected to discuss its 2021 budget next week and decide what is critical to keep in the plan.

A majority of City Council last month expressed a desire to keep a scaled-down budget for next year due to fiscal uncertainty of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the city manager was directed to identify “critical items” to include in the budget.

The city would need to have a full budget in place by April 1 according to state law. City Councilman Tim Abbott, chair of the Finance and Budget Committee, is requesting City Council be presented next week with the full 2021 budget “with only the critical items in that budget for council’s discussion next meeting.”

City Manager Mark Wendling said the list of critical items includes backfilling two vacant police officer positions, filling the newly created neighborhood development manager and filling a tax analyst and part-time zoning inspector jobs. He also is asking City Council to provide funding to open the city’s aquatic center and summer camps.

“I do strongly recommend all of those programs,” he said, specifically emphasizing opening the swimming pool and summer camps. “I think they’re all very worth-while programs. I think they’re something we need to do.”

The statewide health department restrictions forced the city to close its aquatic center for 2020, and shut down or limit most of the park’s programming for much of the year.

In June, City Council cut 3.8 percent, or $2.86 million, to its then-$75.6 million 2020 operating budget. The 2021 budget, without the critical items included, would extend the amended $72.77 million overall budget.

City staff projected 2021 revenues to be $84.58 million, an 1.07 percent increase over 2020. The initial projected 2021 expenses was an increase over the amended 2020 budget, but down from 2019 spending.

The projected revenues do take into account the Fairfield Community Arts Center’s inability to hold shows and performances due to the COVID-19 virus restrictions.

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