If an individual understands the budgeting making process and the manner in which the budget is assembled, then he or she will find the document to be making sense. Moreover, it will be possible for citizens or the public to influence budget making decisions. Therefore, this report endeavors to explain the budgeting making process as well as how the public can get access to it and be involved in the budget making process. Even for those individuals whose interest in spending by the City is only limited to knowing general procedures in the budget making process and what happens to their local taxes. It takes the position that elected officials or representatives must stay in touch with the needs of the community so that they can provide responsive and appropriate government services.
Approximately one third of American cities are laying off some workers this year and more than half of them have delayed or canceled infrastructure projects. When people receive their pay for personal property taxes or property tax bill every financial year, the annual budget process of the City is always not uppermost in their thoughts. Despite is quite ridiculous as the budget is the place where citizens can find out how their tax dollars are used or spent by the government. It is sometimes because the government's budget may be confusing and complex at the first glance by the citizen as it is possibly put together in order to only allow an understanding by a bureaucrat. In addition, the government is required to prepare the budgets on several occasions and financial details in essential to provide the necessary information to those responsible for the budgeting making decisions (Shah, 2007).
An important avenue for soliciting citizen opinions is the budget making process as it informs the decision as to the essential areas where the government should heavily spend its money. In addition, this report provides information as to where residents or citizens can communicate their opinions to the City Council and the City Manager in the budget process. Also included in this report is some additional information which describes the relationship of the City to the Federal Governments and the State from a financial perspective or standpoint.
A budget is a plan or a financial proposal which directs the provision of public facilities and services on an annual basis. This plan represents the City Council's and the City Manager's commitment to offering the most essential needs of citizens or residents within the confines of the available funds or revenues. The money that the City collects from grants, taxes, and fees among others to fund this plan is referred to as revenue while money spent on materials, equipment, and salaries in providing these planned facilities and services are called expenditures.
The City law requires that the expenditures must equal revenues in the annual budget and this results in what is known as a balanced budget. In some cities, there are creation of departments that have their annual budgets distinct from other general departments operating within the City. For instance, water services are offered by separate and different department with its distinct budget. Similarly, automotive repair services and maintenance for vehicles owned by the City, sewer maintenance, and solid waste collections are offered by the department with a separate individual budget. However, the City Council must approve all these separate and distinct departmental budgets, and it must be included in the overall budget plan of the City (Menifield, 2011).
As a matter of practice, largest private and public organizations as well as several small organizations prepare budgets so that they can manage their funds properly. However, the government has two additional key reasons why they prepare budgets. First is because it provides public services and facilities to meet the needs of the citizens through use of public funds. This is because the government will not always have enough revenue to fund all citizens' needs and a compromise must hence be made. Second is because the budget process offers a mechanism where official representatives of the people can hear diverse views of taxpayers, citizens as well as other interested parties and make a compromise reach an accord on its spending priorities. There is also a requirement by law that the government and the City creates an annual budget (Shah, 2007).
The City Council and the City Manager makes the final spending decision with regards to what should be included in the budget and the levels of funding. However, before they make these choices, information, preferences, and recommendations must be provided or submitted to these decision makers by several groups with an interest in government finances and programs. In this regard, the best way of attaining a sense on the diversity involved in the budget making process it looking at the list of speakers during the budget hearing. There should be speakers representing taxpayers associations, public education, senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and the general public. It because the elected officials, community group representatives, Budget Department staff, departmental heads and other interested parties have an essential role in the budget process. Citizens are always given the opportunity to submit their recommendations to the City Council and the City Manager during the public budget hearing and those recommendations are subsequently discussed by the department directors and Budget staff at work sessions. All those participants make key contributions to the financial decision every year on the essential needs of the citizens for public facilities and services as well as the funding levels of the Cities (International Conference on Urban Regeneration and Sustainability, 2012).
The most direct and common means of an individual or a resident addressing the official representatives concerning the budget and projects are through participation in public budget hearing. Notice is always given of a Budget public hearing and in most cases it appears in the newspapers at least one month before the public hearing. If a person wish to participate or give his proposal, they can sign up for public hearing that day of the hearing. They are always required to provide their name, address or contact, and the subject matter they wish to address. Ordinarily, all speakers who sign up are heard in the order in which their registration was received. Those participating are also required to limit their submissions on agreed on time, in most cases five minutes (Menifield, 2011). Written comments can also be submitted by delivering or emailing submissions to the office of the City Clerk before or even after the public hearing. In addition, residents preferring less formal avenues in voicing their views can also make submissions to civic associations or public organizations as they frequently engage and participate in the budget process. Some City Commissions, Committees, and Boards are also listed to provide administrative and advisory support to the City through their wide-range statutory functions. These groups also entertain citizen concerns as they hear them, act upon them, and recommend actions to the City Council touching on the concerns (Briggs, 2008).
Once a budget is given final approval by the City Council, it becomes very difficult to change it as there are only limited changes which can be made to it. For instance, the department can be allowed to transfer to funds internally a particular expenditure category to another in the event that a serious need arises. It means that money cannot be transferred from one department to another unless with the approval of the City Council and recommended by the City Manager. Therefore, once the program is established it becomes difficult to reduce its funding or end it. However, supplementary appropriations may be done through the approval of the City Council and the Manager provided that there are sufficient funds for such appropriation (International Conference on Urban Regeneration and Sustainability, 2012).
As a result of the foregoing discussion, it is recommended that before the City can embark on a project, the City Council must identify an approved source of funding. In the event that sufficient uncommitted funds are at their disposal, the City Council should pay cash for the completion of the project. Most projects by the City should also be financed over a long time to provide the City government with enough time acquire money to fund the project as it involves high-cost capital. The City government should also continue to encourage public participation in the budget process as it is the only way to know the priorities of the citizens or resident when it comes of facilities and services provided with public funds (Briggs, 2008).
Briggs, X. S. (2008). Democracy as problem solving: Civic capacity in communities across the globe. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
International Conference on Urban Regeneration and Sustainability. (2012). The sustainable city VII: Urban regeneration and sustainability. Southampton, U.K: Wit press.
Menifield, C. (2011). Comparative public budgeting: A global perspective. Sudbury, Mass: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
Shah, A. (2007). Local budgeting. Washington, D.C: World Bank.