Simplified: Mayor Paul TenHaken on Thursday released a $790 million 2024 budget for the City of Sioux Falls, and one of the most-used words in his 35-minute presentation to the City Council on Thursday was "balance." Here's a closer look.
Why it matters
- TenHaken focused his budget address on the need to balance spending on infrastructure projects – like roads and water reclamation – with spending on quality of life projects – like parks and pools.
- The proposed 2024 budget is a more than 20% increase from the current budget of about $646 million. TenHaken noted the continued growth of Sioux Falls, calling out specific couples who have moved to the city from out of state. He also touted the latest tourism data, which showed southeastern South Dakota as the most-visited part of the state.
- The majority of spending – about 75% of the proposed budget – is for infrastructure and public safety, but the address also focused on a number of quality of life improvements, including future pool replacements, bike trail expansion and more opportunities for indoor recreation in the future.
- Overall, the budget is 172 pages and, as TenHaken admits, a lot of numbers. But at the end of the day, most of the money behind those numbers are tied directly to tax dollars.
"These numbers affect every single person in our community," TenHaken said. "It is essential to remember that a better tomorrow relies on strategic decisions made today."
So, what are some big-ticket items for 2024?
Here's a look at some of the big (and surprising) items TenHaken mentioned.
- More space at Midco Aquatic Center. Thanks to the help of a $500,000 donation from Joe and Jen Kirby, the city will be adding on to the Midco Aquatic Center to double the existing locker room space.
- More money for public safety. TenHaken's budget proposes a 9% (or approximately $3 million) increase to the fire department's budget. Most of that increase will go to fund increasing wages and benefits. The police department also has a proposed 5.5% (or about $2.7 million) increase with the largest increase again going to wages and benefits – as well as plans to hire an additional seven officers.
- More city employees. Overall, TenHaken is proposing hiring 24 new full-time positions within the city for a total of $2.2 million. That includes the seven new police officers, six new positions associated with the new public safety training center, four new hires related to infrastructure and the remainder for planning, parks and operational support.
- Big bucks for street improvements. The 2024 budget includes nearly $146 million to fund highways and streets. This includes the continued construction of Highway 100/South Veterans Parkway, as well as new interchanges at Interstate 29 and 85th Street, Interstate 229 and Cliff Avenue and Interstate 229 and Minnesota Avenue.
- A new wading pool. TenHaken is also proposing taking the McKennan Park Wading Pool replacement out of the broader discussion about a quality of life bond (i.e. folks pay a little extra in taxes to fund new pools) and instead just pay for the new wading pool out of the city's general fund and leave the bond for bigger (potentailly indoor) aquatic and recreation centers to replace the aging Frank Olsen and Kuehn Park pools.
- A potential shake-up for public transit. It's not a line item in the budget, but TenHaken noted that the city's contract with Sioux Area Metro, the company behind the city buses, expires this year. And, instead of renewing, TenHaken said the city will open up a request for proposals to see what other companies might be out there with different ideas for handling public transit in the city.
What are city councilors watching?
Overall, the council seems satisfied with TenHaken's proposed budget.
Several councilors – including Sarah Cole, Alex Jensen and David Barranco – noted that they'd like to see the budget include plans for a new pool on the south side of town.
Barranco also said he'd like to see the timeline sped up on the proposed report-to-work stations for the Sioux Falls Police Department on the east and west sides of town, something included in TenHaken's five-year capital plan.
Councilor Greg Neitzert noted some concern that all of the infrastructure in the budget and capital plan is going to cost a lot of money down the line to maintain. He also noted the lack of a mention of childcare in TenHaken's proposal.
"We're going to have to have a role in childcare," Neitzert said. "It's an energizing issue that's going to be a major thing."
Councilor Curt Soehl noted that the budget did not include mention of a city arts director position – something the mayor proposed, but ultimately did not get funded, last year. He said he'd be in favor of seeing that position added back into the discussion in the coming weeks.
What happens next?
The council will hear more in-depth budget presentations from each of the city departments over the coming weeks.
Then, they'll ultimately decide what stays, what goes and what's added to TenHaken's proposal before voting to pass a final budget in September.