News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

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It has been said that to know the priorities of an organization one must look to their budget.

As a public entity, the City of Sisters is a steward of both public trust and public funds. The City goes through a rigorous process annually to carefully identify the use of funds across departments and provide transparency adopting the legal spending authority to use funds. Beginning in earnest in January, the City begins formulating the budget for the upcoming fiscal year – each July 1 the City’s new fiscal year (FY) starts with a new budget. The backbone of the budget is goals adopted by Council every two years and reviewed annually.

In February 2019, Sisters City Council established overarching goals for the City in FY 2019/20 and FY 2020/21 budgets: livability and growth, public safety, economic development, essential infrastructure, good governance, and community vision. Establishing these goals for two years, after each election, allows for two budget cycles and department workplans to support projects and initiatives that may take multiple years to accomplish. Under each of those goals, each year, there are numerous high-level objectives that support tangible, identifiable progress.

In The Nugget on September 16, 2020, the City of Sisters included a State of the City overviewing annual accomplishments and priorities.

The City Council is discussing goals for FY 2021/22 budget at the workshop meeting Thursday, February 11. Being just over halfway through this FY, City Council and staff are reviewing progress on current goals and workplans prior to goal setting.

Despite managing through the COVID-19 pandemic, the City is on-track to make progress on and accomplish nearly all that it set out to do — albeit with some adjustments. Complementary to the goals and high-level objectives, staff prepares workplans for each department to sustain operations, maintenance, and replacement for day-to-day activities.

All these levels feed into the budget worksheets for each department fund detailing among other things revenues and expenditures. Staff prepares through spring a proposed budget balancing resources and requirements that goes to the City Budget Committee — composed of the City Council plus five at-large citizen representatives — in May for their review.

At the first budget committee meeting, the budget officer delivers the budget message explaining the proposed budget and an overview of significant changes. The proposed budget is discussed thoroughly during public hearings and revised accordingly by the budget committee, which approves the budget sending it to City Council in June for another public hearing, final adjustments, and adoption. This process is conducted and completed annually on the same timeline.

The City’s FY 2020/21 budget book was over 120 pages in length, organized into an introduction, budget summary, fund summaries, and additional information. The City’s topnotch finance department, led by Finance Director Joe O’Neill, enjoys discussing and explaining components of the budget process to interested community members. Overall, it will continue to be an objective to make the budget book even more informative, accessible, and transparent to the average reader. Additional narrative was added to illustrate the budget line-item detail beyond the raw numbers.

All agendas and packets for City Council meetings can be found on the City’s website. The past budget books for the City can be found online at or contact City Hall for additional information, 541-549-6022.


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