‘Tis the season
But not to be jolly or deck the halls with boughs of holly. ‘Tis the season to keep an eye out on what’s coming up in our city. The months of July and beyond are known as budget season. Actually, for the city itself, budget season is already well under way.
Next week at the July 6 city council meeting, the city will unveil its proposed budget for the next fiscal year (“Happy new year” for the city is October 1, by the way).
So, what does this mean for most of us, garden-variety residents? It should mean a lot. Those spreadsheets and presentations mean a whole lot, even to those of us who can’t stand balancing our own checkbooks.
Because ‘tis the season to pay attention to proposed fee increases and what they could and would mean for all of us. The time to complain, speak up, make your feelings known, whatever you call it or however you do it, is NOT October 2. It’s not after the council takes a vote and it “makes the news.”
It’s now, during the process. As someone who makes it my business to find out what I can as soon as I can, and release that news to people in the best way I know how, it is disheartening to see complaints and the proverbial “torches and pitchforks” come out after the fact. I always wonder, where were these people during the months of discussions ahead of time, before the council takes its final votes in September?
If you don’t like a proposed fee increase or rate increase, now is the time to pay attention for that possibility. Make your case, plead your case, offer alternatives. A city deals in dollars and cents and what (to them) is the best way to increase revenues.
This is the time, too, to question expenditures. Why does X cost so much? Why is this city department purchasing thus-and-such from that vendor? Why is this department spending X dollars instead of Q dollars, which is less expensive? Where the general fund is concerned and our tax dollars are spent, we have every right to ask questions.
Look at the current year’s budget. What was spent this year and how much are they planning to spend next year? As the old saying goes, the devil is in the details. I’m a detail person. Details are interesting to me and I like seeing how things work and come together. Some people aren’t detail people. I get that. They’re the ones who say, “All I want to know is, how much is this going to cost me? Spare me the details.”
Non-detail people, this is time for you, too, to take notice. It may seem sometimes that “everybody wants something, but nobody wants to pay for it.” I don’t think that’s entirely true. I don’t mind paying for something if I see the value in it. I think that’s how most people are.
‘Tis the season for budgets and looking ahead to seeing how much things will cost us, as residents and taxpayers, in the upcoming year. Now’s the time to pay attention, get involved in the process because like it or not, it will affect all of us, eventually. Come to think of it, anytime is the perfect season for paying attention.