From: Russell M. Poling Sr.
Budget season is upon us here in the city of Columbus, yet we do not have much public information. Our City Council is set to have its first of two votes on the budget on Sept. 20, which is five weeks since their last meeting. I checked the city website, and I found a spreadsheet that lists all of the departmental requests, but there isn’t a summary that shows the total requested outlays, nor can I find any projected revenue numbers.
Although the three days of budget hearings were open to the public and recorded, your average citizen does not have the time to attend all of these or watch the videos. I reached out to all seven members of the council to ask if they had the final numbers that they would be expected to vote on. One member replied by email stating that final numbers have not been provided but would try to get that for me. Another member called me to state that final numbers were not yet available. This member went on to say that most likely what they would be voting on would probably be provided a few days before the meeting or the day of the meeting itself.
As a taxpayer and concerned resident, I would like to have advance knowledge on what our council will be voting on. If this information is only provided a day or two before the actual vote, that does not give residents or even the council members much time to digest this information and, in my case, provide input to my elected officials. At several council meetings this year new expenditures were proposed and approved. Funds were moved from one account to another.
I am concerned that the 2017 budget could be much more than the 2016 budget. I base this on the many additional requests throughout this year plus what I have gleaned from the departmental requests. Do we have the forecasted revenue to support such an increase? Are our priorities in the right place? Just like any governmental body, we have a finite amount of resources. As a taxpayer I want to ensure the resources are directed to where they are needed most.
I would have expected that final budget and revenue numbers would be provided to the council and the public well in advance of the first vote. Just seeing them at the first reading is not enough time. History has shown that our City Councils rarely reject something on the second reading that was passed on the first reading. I accept that as normal since it would take some compelling new information to change one’s vote. Therefore, our City Council will be deciding the 2017 budget without much time to actually review the final numbers.