Engage and Represent
It’s budget time for the City of Traverse City. Exciting stuff! Well, sort-of. From the vantage point of an engaged citizen, it can be rather deflating watching departments fight for budgets, the City Manager try to give “just enough” information (or, perhaps signaling that he as well only has “enough” information), and City Commissioners pull their hair out to decipher the needs and actual status of the City coffers, all the while promoting their own agendas.
What often gets lost is that the budget ought to reflect the values of the community, not drive them.
In past experiences, the discussions that take place in meetings are almost impossible to follow for observers only privy to a public memo or two. As the process unfolds each new step seems to have another layer of vagueness and hamstrung-ness to it (I think I just made up a word). I suspect that even the decision makers feel a bit of that. I believe last year’s final budget meeting went well past midnight.
Still, this is where the direction for the next fiscal year happens and the least we can do as engaged citizens, is to weigh-in with the values and priorities that we wish to see represented in the City’s budget. I’ve not wrapped my head around it yet to make strong comments either-way, but this week City Manager Ben Bifoss released his recommendations for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. The memo is readable and available under the “Government” drop-down heading on the City’s homepage (yes, not front page and not easily located). Or, download it here (PDF) or view it below–easy.
Key recommendations from the memo are:
- Reduction of staff beyond normal attrition in fire, police, and the streets/parks department.
- A reduction in cemetery maintenance costs by, I assume, keeping it in-house.
- Reduction in recreational costs by eliminating the operation of the ski program at Hickory Hills (this will be fun to watch)
- A status quo, if not increases, for almost every other department. (Last year, then Mayor Chris Bzdok and Cmmn Mike Gillman made budget recommendations (Plan4TC) that may be informative to this year’s discussion.)
The meetings where the budget will be discussed aren’t solid yet, but a potential April 30th meeting is the earliest followed by a definite public hearing on May 7th, likely May 21st and at the latest a June 4th meeting, where the final version needs to be adopted. The memo is just a recommendation, the decision is solely up to the elected commissioners.
Certainly, more to come.
What are your first impressions?