Sedona AZ (May 10, 2018) – One of the most important activities of government is to decide how to allocate limited resources to the capital improvement projects, services and amenities that serve citizens. Making good choices – deciding which trade-offs are worth making – depends on the quality of the data and the dialog that influences budgeting decisions.
For the Sedona City Council and city staff members, a key component of the process is the involvement of citizen representatives willing to delve into the details of every project and program that vies for funding for the coming fiscal year. For this column I asked some of this year’s members to share their experiences.
Group member Holli Ploog sees the group’s role as both service and oversight.
“We review and recommend spending on capital projects, review justification for each department’s increases to the operating budget, consider cost saving measures to reduce or eliminate unnecessary spending, and safeguard expenditures of taxpayers money,” she says.
The process is not for the faint of heart. Work Group members are involved in every step of the journey, from initial proposal to final approval. They dedicate significant time to reading detailed descriptions of programs and proposals, learning about city issues and challenges, scrutinizing spreadsheets and debating how to choose which competing needs should receive funding.
When all is said and done, the budget packet that is presented to the city council is detailed and complex. The budget for the current fiscal year, 2018-19, is a 330-page document that provides a comprehensive view of the city’s financial health and spending priorities: a look at where we’ve been, where we are and where we want to go in the coming year.
New to the process this year is Anne Khoury, who says she was surprised by its thoroughness. “It is not a speedy process,” she says, “as budget decisions are not made by the staff or the city manager. Staff members prepare their proposed budgets for baseline operations and then propose budget additions and deletions with knowledge of council and citizen priorities, the city plan, and long range revenue forecasts. The city council is the body that makes the final budget decisions, and the city manager and staff execute the decisions.”
The annual budget process begins in December or January and culminates in June, when the Sedona City Council discusses and approves a balanced budget, as required by Arizona law, for the coming fiscal year. Every step of the way, members of the Citizens Budget Work Group provide input.
Charlotte Hosseini has been a work group member for the past three years, asking the questions that she thinks her fellow citizens might want to ask. “Being allowed into some of the actual deliberations among senior staff and department heads is a rarity in my experience,” she says. “This contact has given me insights that I would not get from occasional articles and makes me confident that I understand the rationale and consequences for big decisions like the transportation tax or the upcoming Home Rule vote.”
It has been a privilege to have the assistance and participation of the Sedona citizens who comprise the Citizens Budget Work Group: Charlotte Hosseini, Janice Howes, Anne Khoury, John Martinez, Holli Ploog, and Jessica Williamson. This is the sixth year the work group has been embedded in the city’s budget development process.
I encourage all Sedona residents to become involved in your city, and contribute to our very important budget dialog. You are always welcome to view all of the city’s budget and audit documents online at sedonaaz.gov/finance.
The Osburn letter above is slickly put together
A response in reality is under preparation for submission next week
When Home Rule gets it’s NO vote, the Assistant City Manager position will be the first one cut. This is Karen Osburn’s city employment in the death throes. A lot of vain words, no substance.