New long-range policies drive financial update

July 16, 2013

By Peter Clark

City Finance Director Diane Marcotte laid out strategies to secure the city’s long-term financial standings during a council work session June 10.

Marcotte addressed policies by which the city sets the budget in part one of a two-part discussion. Though she said she remained sure that the general fund was strong, she wanted her department to educate the council about building the budget and introduce the possibility of revising budgetary policies.

“The fund balance in our general fund is strong,” she said in a private interview. Still, she said improvements could be made. “There are lots of ways of getting there. It’s just working with the council and seeing what would be their preferred approach.”

Since city budget policies had not been updated since 2002, Marcotte said many finance practices could help the policies remain relevant in the current economic environment.

“These financial policies determine how the council spends its money,” Marcotte said. “The policies are a series of components that aid in the financial sustainability of the city. We are looking long range at our services and what we need to provide, and then have the council discuss those things out here.”

Since the last policy changes happened 11 years ago, only a few of the council members had been present for a financial revision of this nature.

“A lot of the council had not been through it before,” she said about the financial update briefing. “Now, they have this broader-based knowledge to ask questions against.”

The first half of Marcotte’s report offered a detailed overview of the financial position at the end of Dec. 12, 2012.

“At the end of 2012, assets of the city of Issaquah exceeded its liabilities by approximately $620 million,” the report read. “Of this amount, $29 million may be used to meet the city’s ongoing obligations to citizens and creditors. The city’s total debt decreased by $4 million during calendar year 2012.”

The revised summary of significant budgetary policies lists the standards by which the Finance Department hopes to lead the city’s budgetary practices.

“As a comprehensive business plan, the budget should provide the following critical elements: public policies, financial plan, operations guide and communications with the public,” it reads.

Marcotte said updates to the policies were not dramatic, but necessary to keep the city’s finances in step with modern practices.

“A lot of it’s common sense: don’t spend one-time money to create a new program, set up a rainy day fund, etc.,” Marcotte said about the new policies. “A lot of it is really cleaning things up.”

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