First reading of the city budget tomorrow night

Our chamber has been following the 2017-18 budget process very carefully. With the re-scheduled first reading being tomorrow night, we were disappointed that last week’s work session did not include a budget discussion. The public deserves the opportunity to be aware of possible changes and to be a part of the discussion.

This budget will have significant impact on working individuals’ and businesses’ wallets regardless of the tax increase proposed.

In light of this impact, we sent a request to the city manager to consider rescheduling the first reading and second reading on regular meeting days. As it stands, both readings are scheduled for special called meeting days, with the vote being only 48 hours after the first reading.

We are concerned that this is not following the spirit of transparency or allowing the people of our community time to fully understand and assess what is being proposed.

The city manager informed us that the special called meeting dates and the 48 hour turn around between a first reading and the vote was necessary to accommodate a commissioner’s international travel schedule. According to his email, one of the city commissioners is traveling out of the country for a month.

We also requested a list of any changes to the original budget that was tabled on April 24.

On Thursday afternoon, we were told that the budget was not finished and that city staff would be working all weekend to finish it.

So here is the recap:

The city commission will not have a copy of an $80 million budget until a few hours before the first reading.

The public will not be told what is in the budget until it is given first reading.

Instead of the normal time frame – two weeks between meetings for public dialogue — the city commission is voting on a tax increase (which apparently is a rate yet to be determined) 48 hours after it is introduced so a commissioner can go abroad for a month.

Please join us 5 p.m. Monday at on the fourth floor of city hall.

By Mark Martin Chamber Advocacy Chair 2015 Chamber Board Chair