Ben Billingsley, the City of Moab finance director, kicked off his 2023-2024 administrative budget presentation to the city council on March 28 with a George Washington quote: “We must consult our means, rather than our wishes.” 

As Billingsley compiled budget requests from various city departments—the first step in creating a new year’s budget—he found there was a $2.3 million shortfall in what departments asked for versus what the city’s revenue is. 

“As a percentage of our total budget, that is very substantial,” he said. “… I knew when I discovered that, that this was going to be a difficult budget to compile. But as we consult our means rather than our wishes, we can develop our priorities, and our budget will be driven off of that.” 

This year’s priorities are to “maintain and increase levels of service where needed,” Billingsley said—and to also cut back where possible. 

During the meeting, Billingsley presented the admin budget; there will be a presentation of the tentative budget in late April, a public hearing for that budget in May, and a final budget adoption in June. 

The admin budget shows council priorities, department requests, existing obligations, and prior year project rollover; it also shows the total fund balance and Billingsley’s recommendations. This budget allows the city to look at what the absolutely necessary costs for the future will be, and how much money may be left over for other requests. 

Billingsley said the budget includes items such as fleet assumptions (the city expects to turn over 10 vehicles in 2024), public safety training costs (costs for staffing, training, and equipment have increased 57% from the three-year prior average), capital expenditures (the city is continuing a number of infrastructure projects), and costs associated with the city’s strategic plan (the city is expecting to pay for a number of master plans, such as the parks master plan and facilities plan, though many strategic planning initiatives will only cost staff time). The city also hopes to increase staff wages. 

Now, council members will meet with Billingsley and City Manager Carly Castle; Billingsley will present another budget with feedback incorporated in late April.