Resident participation in city budget hearing is vital part of process

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At first blush, it appears as if Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo and city officials have done their due diligence in crafting a budget that increases spending responsibly while holding the line on taxes.

The mayor unveiled her proposed $44.35 million 2019 budget before a special session of the Common Council on Wednesday night. While the mayor and her staff have done their work — there is much more that remains before we can, or should, consider the budget finalized.

After receving the budget proposal, the councilors rightly moved to table the proposal and scheduled a series of work sessions with department heads in the coming weeks to delve more deeply into the plan.

It is during these “nuts and bolts”
sessions where councilors get to go line-by-line through each department’s budget, posing questions and ensuring that spending dovetails with city — and public — goals and needs.

Additionally, the councilors scheduled a public hearing on the proposed spending plan for Wednesday, Oct. 10, at 6:45 p.m.

While such public hearings may seem as formalities, it is essential that the public not just has an opportunity to sound off on the $44.35 million spending plan but that the public exercises this opportunity.

City officials want — and need — public input to accurately understand exactly what it is that residents want and need and is willing to spend for it. Fire and police protection; street maintenance, repair and snow removal; water, sewer and garbage services; parks and recreational programming; even tax collection all have costs associated with them.

It is important for residents to not just be informed about the costs but active participants in the process to prioritize how our tax dollars are spent.

The mayor’s spending plan increases spending by $1,173,207 without generating new property taxes to it. Furthermore, it maintains services at a level Romans have come to expect and demand.

The spending plan also adds a pair of positions — an assistant building inspector as well as that of a refuse coordinator. While these positions are likely justified, officials should articulate these needs, duties and responsibilities in a public forum to the satisfaction of councilors and residents.

While we anticipate that these questions, and others, will ultimately meet with public and council approval, the process remains a crucial part of our budget process and we encourage residents to be active in how city government spends our money.

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