Monday, May 17, 2010

Budget Prioritization Exercise

As announced at a recent city council meeting, the City now has available for download the worksheets for the Budget Prioritization exercise. This tool was created to assist the City Council in prioritizing elements of city government that have been recommended for elimination. That's actually a coarse way of saying which jobs will be eliminated.

I like this exercise but, and it's a big but (no wisecracks, please), I'm afraid it will be an exercise in futility and frustration for anyone - including the City Council - who participates in it. The reason I say that is because it may be irrelevant.

The list of 86 items on this list has already been determined by the City Manager, based on input from his staff members, to be items that he recommends for elimination. The total dollars represented by this exercise is $8,365,072 - about half of the projected $16.4 million deficit for the 2010/2011 fiscal year budget. If you participate in this exercise your input will be included in a compilation representing the community's choices - it's priorities - as a bit of information for the City Council to use when considering the budget.

The council will theoretically go through the same exercise, the results of which will be also compiled and provided to them as yet another tool. It's my understanding that the individual prioritization sheets prepared by the council members will also be available for public review.

REVIEW ATTACHMENTS "A" AND "B"Even if you do not participate in this exercise, reviewing attachments A (Instructions) and B (Program-Service-Facility Impacts) will be helpful to you in understanding just what kind of painful decisions the council and staff must address as they try to balance this years budget.

To find the information, go to the city web site, HERE, and go down to the box in the middle of the page that lists issues. At the bottom of that list you'll find the link in magenta entitled, "Prioritization of City Services". Click on that and you'll find a box that looks like this one:

You'll see each of the attachments listed. In addition to A and B, mentioned above, two items "C" are also listed. These are the forms to be used to complete the prioritization exercise. One is a pdf. file that may be downloaded and printed out for completion. The other is a Excel worksheet that can be completed online and emailed directly to Assistant City Manager Tom Hatch.

At the bottom of both forms is a place for any other comments you might choose to make. I know, based on my conversations with them, that Hatch and other senior staffers are looking for input from the community about the budget - this is the place to do that.

Whether you fill out the form or not, please look over attachment B to understand a little more about this process.

There will be a budget study session on June 8th and a community budget workshop on Thursday, June 10th. The council will make its final budget determinations on June 15th, the final council meeting of the month unless circumstances require special meetings to be called.

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