Simplified: City Council is about a month away from finalizing the city's 2023 budget after Mayor Paul TenHaken's $646 million proposal. Here's a look at the process so far and what to watch as final decisions are made.
Why it matters
- A large chunk (about 45 percent) of the proposed budget includes tax money, which means whether or not you're paying attention to city government, you are paying for it.
- Council has the final say over how the city will spend money in the next year, and a series of budget hearings over the last month have given leaders from each city department a chance to plead their case for funding increases.
- TenHaken's budget proposal included adding 30 new positions to city staff across several departments. Additionally, many departments are looking to increase funding for part-time help to manage increasing workloads as Sioux Falls' population grows.
" This is a people and personnel-focused plan that focuses on strengthening the high-caliber city services and quality of life that make Sioux Falls a great place to call home," TenHaken said in his budget address last month.
What to watch:
Here's a quick breakdown of some of the budget areas that have caught the most attention from councilors during the hearings. To see more details on what's in the budget, click here. And click here for the full budget proposal.
- Councilors have had many questions about TenHaken's proposal to add 30 new full-time positions in the city. Councilor Greg Neitzert said it was an "eye-popping" number.
- The new positions also don't account for the uptick in turnover the city saw last year – 6 percent turnover, the highest since 2012. A chunk of that is due to retirements, HR Director Bill O'Toole said.
- Councilor Pat Starr said that more city employees means less of a need to contract out services, and he noted a desire to keep things in-house.
Upgrades to entertainment venues
- The Washington Pavilion is seeking an nearly $2.2 million more in funding in 2023 than in 2022 to cover the costs to upgrade the sound system, improve the Kirby Science Discovery Center and other projects.
- The Orpheum Theater is also asking for funding to upgrade sound equipment and renovate the lobby and marquee.
- Councilor Pat Starr asked about the high costs for new sound equipment in both theaters, and Pavilion President Darrin Smith said the goal is to attract bigger and better Broadway shows and other acts to the Pavilion.
Public safety spending
- Both the police department and Sioux Falls Fire Rescue are looking for increases in personnel and just in general to cover equipment and other needs.
- Councilor Pat Starr asked both police and fire about diversity in hiring and whether they've made any progress in finding employees who match the diversity of Sioux Falls.
- Police Chief Jon Thum is looking to add four officers and one health and wellness coordinator. He also shared one of the challenges police are facing is in getting vehicles due to supply chain issues.
- And, councilors learned a K-9 dog costs about $16,000.
- On the fire side, Fire Chief Matthew McAreavey said the department is ready to add another battalion chief specifically focused on emergency medical services as well as another position to help coordinate with the emergency manager in city emergency situations.
A new arts coordinator?
- Planning and Development Services wants to add a new position for an Arts Coordinator. If the position is approved, the goal would be to have a city worker that can join together the different private and nonprofit arts groups in the city.
- Councilor Rich Merkouris said this position feels too much like an "island" and worries it could be cut in the future. Councilor Curt Soehl said he questioned whether the position was "essential to city services."
Concerns over public transit costs
- The transit department asked for a $2.5 million increase to change bus routes to a hybrid of on-demand and planned routes.
- Senior Planner Sam Trebilcock said the change will help public transport bounce back after the pandemic cut ridership. Trebilcock also said they're looking to renovate or move SAM headquarters.
- Councilor Curt Soehl asked if money budgeted for engineering in the past was returned to city budget after going unused on the headquarters, and it was not. Soehl and Councilor Alex Jensen did not want to add additional budget for a program that was still being developed and a building with an unsure plan in place.
"If we approve this before this development plan, transit plan, is being developed, do we have the cart ahead of the horse here?" Jensen said.
What happens next?
The council still has to finish budget hearings, including a joint hearing with the county next week to review joint items – libraries, museums and Metro Communications.
The first reading of the final budget is set for Sept. 6, with final approval expected Sept. 13 during the regular City Council meeting.