There is usually an annual outcry about budgets passed by cities, counties, school boards, and other taxing entities. I am giving you all a head’s up about several of these government units meeting soon to review money issues for the coming year. It is time for them to make up their budgets.
Sometimes extra meetings are required to hear from department heads, finance committees, and interested council or board members. Some groups take the expense proposals line by line and review each one; some don’t. However, all the budget meetings are open to the public. That means you can certainly attend and listen to the proposals, see the items dropped from or added to the purchase plan for the coming year, and hear how your elected officials feel about spending your tax dollars.
If you are one of the people who sit at the coffee shop and complain about how a board or commission is spending your tax dollars, you should be at the budget meetings to see exactly how it is done. If you wait until the meeting when they make their final approval, you won’t get much sympathy from them because the state requires a certain deadline be met for approval and publication of the budgets. The state carries a bit more influence than the coffee shop advisory board. By the time the budget is approved and published, all the discussion is over and it is not likely they are going to be interested in hearing your arguments for or against an additional science teacher or a third police car or a five mill increase to fight zebra mussels at the county lake.
Now is the time to give up an evening or two and attend the budget meetings so that you have an understanding of what these groups do and why. I am not sure if you will be allowed to address them, but you can certainly ask to do so. If they say no, you still can contact them individually and express your opinion.
Or you can write a letter to the editor and express your thoughts right here.
No matter how the parties decide to handle it, sharing your opinions with your elected officials is your right. However, do it effectively and do it at a time when your opinion will have the most impact. Find out what your options are about addressing the board or council in question and learn all you can about the process in which they are engaged. It is not a secret. It is not allowed to be a secret. It is your right to tell them what you think.
Pounding your fist on the table as you complain to me about it in February isn’t going to change anything. And I am not going to fight your battle for you in this column.
Contact the folks who will make the spending decisions. Find out when their budget planning sessions are, and go. It is your right.
— SUSAN MARSHALL