Rapid City budget proposal tackles ‘where we will plan out our growth, development’

The Early evening news on KOTA Territory TV
Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 4:47 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Monday night Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender presented a potential budget for the next fiscal year to the city council; including a suggested increase for Journey On and Volunteers of America. But other focuses for the 13.5% increase in the general fund budget are employment costs and city growth.

The nearly $220 million proposed budget focuses on three values: making Rapid City a better place, accommodating residents and visitors, and enhancing overall quality of life. However, Allender says that keeping up with current growth is another major part of the 2023 budget.

“There’s a lot of predictions about how fast we are going to grow, but we are going to grow as fast as we can build,” said Allender.

The three-term mayor says the city has had a reactive approach to growth in the past, similar to a boom town, where the services are set up and then growth declines. While he stressed that the city is not a boom town, the mayor wants to eliminate situations where what he calls “sloppy decisions” could be made.

“Now we are trying to convert to a more proactive strategy where we will plan out our growth and development areas and provide infrastructure out there,” explained Allender. “That switching over from one philosophy to the other is very expensive and cumbersome, and we are not there yet, not ready yet.”

The growth the city has already experienced and is projected to have is a core piece of the budget. Another major slice of the pie is employment. Allender says the city is seeing the same employment scenario the private sector is experiencing: not enough staff.

“The employment condition is an extreme challenge at this point it’s near being an emergency,” said Allender, who was first elected as mayor in 2015. “If this continues, this is some time down the road, but if this continues in the worst-case scenario. We will have to systematically eliminate some city services in order to be able to provide for the others.”

Although services will not be cut yet, the city must make their jobs competitive, thus wages and benefits are taking up additional parts of the budget. But with staffing challenges, the mayor is also suggesting adding a new division with three new staff to the city’s finance department.

“What’s important to know is that these three employees, in the grants management division, will be funded from the administrative allowance in those grants.” Although the mayor sees these positions as an experiment, their salaries would be fully self-sufficient. “They’ll be soliciting new grants, because we know now, for certain, we’re leaving money on the table. Communities are getting grants to do things we are also doing.”

The budget will be read by the council twice before September 30 as required by state law.

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