What’s Next For The FY23 Budget Process

December 28, 2021

As you may know, CA is in the midst of its Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 budget process. This can be an unfamiliar and complex process for a lot of people, so we thought now would be a great time to recap what we’ve accomplished and where our Board of Directors will go from here. 

Approving our annual budget plan is one of the key tasks CA’s Board of Directors undertakes every year. The Board is responsible for reviewing, refining and ultimately approving the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins May 1, 2022, and ends April 30, 2023. This year looks different relative to years past in an attempt to engage more of the public and clarify what CA’s priorities should be in the year to come.

 

Your input in action

The FY23 budget process began over the summer when the Board of Directors asked CA staff to define a series of scenarios. This exercise was intended to help define priorities and trade-offs for the upcoming budget. Those three test case budget scenarios were presented to the Board in October. Click here to watch a recording of that meeting on the CA Live Stream YouTube page. We have already made significant strides in how we’re able to engage with the public on these important decisions.

Online survey

As CA presented test case scenarios to the Board, our community was encouraged to get involved at an early stage. A major part of this input opportunity early on came in the form of an online survey. More than 400 people expressed their priorities for the organization through that survey. While this was not a statistically significant sampling, the feedback was incredibly valuable. 

Those findings reinforced some of the priorities we had already heard from the community. For example:

  • The survey results reinforced that aquatics facilities, open space and pathways continue to be some of the most valued assets CA provides the community. 
  • Those who participated in the survey also put the work of Community Programs & Services (includes wellness programs and facilities, recreation opportunities, youth oriented programs, international and multicultural initiatives, arts programming) as their highest priority while ranking a number of Community Operations (includes open space maintenance, watershed management, sustainability initiatives) areas as “must do” for the organization. 
  • A significant percentage of those who responded expect CA to provide amenities that make Columbia a unique place, such as the Columbia Ice Rink, Youth & Teen Center and SportsPark.

Information session

CA staff hosted an information session on November 4 where the public was invited to get their questions answered about the test case scenarios and how a shift in priorities could impact other areas of CA. Nearly 40 people attended that information session, and staff took the time to answer nearly 40 questions from our community. Click here to watch presentations from CA leadership as well as the Q&A portion of that information session.

Through this first phase of the process, CA has received consistently positive feedback about engagement opportunities and general understanding of the budget. We appreciate everyone who has participated so far!

 

Guidance for the draft budget

After considering public input and recommendations from staff, the Board of Directors provided their key areas of guidance for the draft budget. CA’s financial team will take this direction and craft the draft budget over the next month or so.

Accessibility as a priority

It became clear throughout these initial conversations that the Board feels strongly about ensuring a wide range of CA programs and services are accessible. CA is working to find ways to invest in opportunities that provide a full range of accessibility to everyone in our community. That includes people of different ages, races, socioeconomic circumstances, abilities and all other demographic distinctions. One component of that is improving communications on what options CA already offers and how people can take advantage of those. Overall, everyone should be provided with opportunities to make the most of life here in Columbia through CA. 

Minimum wage legislation

It is important to note that during the course of the budget process, Howard County not only introduced but also passed legislation that will raise the minimum wage above the State of Maryland increases. That requires CA to account for these changes and the impact on spending in FY23 and beyond.

No shift toward self-sustaining programs

Through the case test scenarios, the Board of Directors was able to investigate some of the inner workings of CA. In doing so, the Board was able to identify a number of programs that lose money for the organization. However, the Board concluded that certain programs and facilities that fall into that – such as open space amenities and events, Columbia Art Center and International Exchange and Multicultural Programs, to name a few – also produce high levels of benefit to the quality of life in this community. Subsequently, there will be no shift toward requiring individual CA programs and facilities to be self-sustaining from a financial perspective. CA will continue to utilize the entirety of revenue from the Annual Charge, memberships and fees to fund the programs and services that yield the best outcomes for the community.

Increase in capital budget

The Board of Directors increased the capital budget by $1 million to $11 million, an increase of almost 38% over the FY22 capital budget. This means CA will invest more of its resources into maintaining and repairing the infrastructure you use every day.

Annual Charge remains steady

The Board of Directors also voted to hold the Annual Charge at its current rate and cap. While your payment amount may increase due to the rising value of your home, the components of the Annual Charge will remain consistent with the current fiscal year.

 

What’s next for the FY23 budget process

From here, CA staff will follow the Board’s guidance and draft a budget that reflects the priorities and trade-offs defined throughout the first phase of this process. That draft will be published online and released to the Board on January 21 on the Financial Reports page

Following that, the public will have additional chances to provide input to the Board both online (more details to come) and through Resident Speakout at the meeting on January 27. 

The community is encouraged to participate in Resident Speakout during any Board meeting and/or send the Board a written statement through our website leading up to the final budget vote on February 24. You can watch any of the Board meetings live on CA’s Live Stream YouTube page, and agendas are available on our Board of Directors page

Please note that the closer we get to the budget’s approval, the more concrete details become and the more difficult it can be to have an impact. 

We welcome any and all feedback on this budget process and will be looking for ways to continually improve it. CA appreciates everyone’s input so far and looks forward to engaging more with you throughout this process.

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