Think of the phrase “Qui Tacit Consentiri” or “To remain silent is consent.”
Tonight is one of the first opportunities to publicly influence the City at an online meeting of the Council Finance and Claims Committee at 6:30 p.m. Residents, it’s that time again for the annual public vetting of the Operating Budget, the portion of the City’s Budget that funds things like staff salaries, training, studies, insurance, electricity, natural gas, and even yard waste. It also includes revenue production such as tax collection, grants and permit fees. You may ask, “Why should I care”? “How could my email or testimony make a difference”? Our daily lives are influenced by the City Operating Budget.
Some food for thought to prepare for this Operating Budget Season: Is one department request causing other department operations to suffer? Has the reorganization at City Hall helped the bottom line? Would vigorous enforcement fines raise more revenue? Is there a need for a full time Grant Writer that would pay for itself? What staff positions are nice, but not necessary? Could we save bigger bucks if we used solar and geothermal technologies more actively on City buildings? Should we ask for a cap on any outside legal consultants? Are we getting the “bang for the buck” in our senior staff? How will the ongoing pandemic reduce the Operating Budget, if at all? By cutting waste, we could have more money for the kids….and the residents…
Tonight’s virtual public hearing allows any resident to let the Council know on the record whether they should vote to keep the preliminary spending cap calculated by the Finance Department as is, raise it, or….even lower it. In order to speak or just watch, enter and scroll down to the listing for Finance and Claims Committee and click on the Zoom link. Then click on the “Raise Hand” button or phone in using the Web ID number listing in the same Meeting-Notice listing.
You can find a partial Operating Budget draft…..wait…it’s not available to the public online as of early Thursday morning? May this necessitate a hearing delay?
Please know that participating in your government by getting to know your budget is an excellent way to keep our democracy intact and let your local representatives know you are checking to ensure that your hard-earned money is being spent wisely. Years ago, I held a brown bag lunch at City Hall about the Operating Budget with the then-BET Chair Fred Wilms….maybe we should have a public Zoom meeting about each of the budgets…I’ll check…
The Fiscal Year of the City begins July 1st of each year, and plans begin a few months after that to prepare the next Fiscal Year’s budgets. The Operating Budget process follows a calendar, which you can find here.
Departments begin to lay out the next year’s operating spending and revenues in the Fall. Ideally, the public could influence annual budget-making throughout the year by offering ideas that could cut spending or produce cash…..as much as your government listens. The next opportunity after tonight to influence the Operating Budget is from March 3-22 when the City’s appointed Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) interviews each Department. That Schedule is here.
As Departments come in for interviews in March, you can make your views known. While the BET Public Hearing is not until March 24 at 6:30 pm, you can still influence BET and the Mayor (a BET member) via Op-Ed, emails and social media.