City Budget 101: Expenses

How is the City budget spent?
In the previous edition of City Budget 101, we covered the topic of revenue in the City's budget - specifically, how revenue impacts the General Fund.

As a refresher, the City's General Fund is the principal financial support for basic public services such as public safety (police, fire and emergency medical services), code enforcement, parks and recreation, and other general government operations. The General Fund finances most traditional services associated with local government.

In this edition of City Budget 101, we'll examine some of the City services funded from the General Fund and how these services tie back into the City Council's strategic goals.

Budget Principles
The City budgets annually, but we monitor expenses carefully throughout the year and adjust as necessary. Our financial policies include taking a conservative approach to budgeting and maintaining a 20% General Fund reserve. By law, the City must have a balanced budget.

Our Finance department prepares and presents monthly financial reports to the City Council with current detailed information about the City's finances. You can find these monthly reports (updated to August 2023) on our website.

We use ongoing revenue to pay for ongoing expenses and one-time revenue to pay for one-time projects.

In addition to the General Fund, the City budget is split into special revenue funds, enterprise funds, etc. Each fund operates separately from the others, like an independent business. Enterprise funds are used to account for any activity for which a fee is charged to external users for services/goods, such as water and sewer services.

Ideally, the final, adopted budget reflects the Council's strategic goals of clearly defining the future, promoting community safety, and engaging the community.

Public Safety
One of the strategic goals of our City Council is to promote community safety, through:
  • Code enforcement
  • Ensuring public safety services are properly funded and staffed
  • Managing the full lifecycle of community assets
  • Encouraging pride in local neighborhoods
Providing public safety services is a challenging endeavor for many cities and requires a significant amount of personnel and resources which are in multiple departments throughout the City.

Public safety involves a combination of City services funded entirely by the General Fund.

The Police department (25% of the General Fund), Fire and Emergency Medical Services (14% of the General Fund), and Municipal Court (4.5% of the General Fund) total 43% of the City's 2023 budgeted General Fund expenses.

Code enforcement, one of the subgoals listed as part of the Council's focus on community safety, is also funded through the General Fund. Our code enforcement division is housed within our Community and Economic Development department, whose total department budget (which also includes permitting, planning, building, and the animal shelter) equals about 17% of our 2023 budgeted General Fund expenses.

City Facilities
City facilities is an all-encompassing term that includes a variety of buildings and grounds that are located throughout Shelton.

There are our buildings that City services and employees operate directly out of - the Civic Center, the Public Works Shop, the Animal Shelter, and the Wastewater Treatment Plant. 

We also own the buildings and are responsible for much of the associated maintenance of the Mason County Historical Society Museum, Central Mason Fire & EMS's downtown Shelton station, and the library building on West Alder Street.

These facilities are key to providing essential municipal services, and the maintenance needs can vary greatly - from a building needing a new roof to lightbulbs needing to be changed, and everything in between.

We sometimes have to defer maintenance projects to balance out our other needs, but we are recommending some much-needed maintenance projects be funded as part of the 2024 budget, including a new roof for the Animal Shelter and updated doors/security for the Municipal Court, Civic Center, and other facilities.

City facilities also include our parks. Each of these parks has its own maintenance schedule, and associated tasks include keeping the grass mowed, cleaning graffiti, or playground maintenance.

Proactively maintaining our City facilities is a focus of our Parks, Recreation, and Facilities department, which is about 11% of the General Fund.