Budget hearings begin May 13

By Observer Upload May 03, 2013 11:39 am
Each spring the City of La Grande conducts public hearings on the proposed budgets for the new fiscal year that begins each July.

The City Council appoints a Budget Committee, which is comprised of the City Council and seven citizens of 

La Grande. This committee approves the budgets and forwards them to the City Council for adoption. I would encourage you to attend the city’s Budget Committee hearings that begin at
6 p.m. May 13 in the Colleen F. Johnson Community Room on the corner of Fourth and Adams. 

The hearings will start that Monday night with the Urban Renewal Agency’s budget and public comments regarding urban renewal. We use urban renewal to pay for projects such as the Big H streetscape improvements and the Facade Improvement Program, which gives matching grant dollars to
local businesses to improve their
buildings. 

Monday night will also include an overview of the city’s other budgets with public comments on those being heard on Tuesday evening. Each hearing begins at 6 p.m. and will continue each night until the Budget Committee approves the budgets. 

The starting point for the budgeting process is the annual City Council Retreat, where general priorities are set from which the city staff works very hard to develop proposed budgets that allocate our limited resources in line with those priorities. 

As with last year, the intent this year is to attempt to maintain the same level of services to the highest level for our citizens and those who visit our community. Many people, myself included,                     refer to the city’s budget as if it were a single document when in reality it is a series of several budgets that distribute funds from a variety of sources to provide everything from public safety to parks to street maintenance to grant funds to help local businesses. But the budget is more than a document that lists revenues and expenses. The budget formalizes a decision to spend money in one area as opposed to another, and is a reflection of what our community values. 

To help validate those community values, the Budget Committee and City Council would like to have your input, which is why I am encouraging you to attend these hearings. 

During the hearing, we will use the term “fund.” What this really means is a separate budget or account that is dedicated to a specific function or group of functions. 

The General Fund gets the most attention. It is used to pay for the general governmental services provided to the community as a whole, and includes police; fire and emergency medical services; planning and zoning; and parks, recreation and aquatics. The primary sources of revenue for the General Fund include property taxes, franchise fees and user fees. 

We also have several Enterprise Funds including the Water Fund and Sewer Fund that are essentially the same as a separate business and are intended to be self-supporting. 

Think of the Water Fund as if it were a private business that sells water to the customers. The money generated from those sales is used to pay only for the operation of the water business. Enterprise Fund revenues can’t legally be used to buy things that are not part of that fund. One example is we can’t use the revenue from water bills to buy police cars or pay for recreation programs. 

Conversely, we do not use property taxes to pay for things in the Water Department or any of the other Enterprise Funds. 

This is typically where most people start asking a lot of questions, and since our budget isn’t something that can be explained adequately in a short article I will again encourage you to attend the hearings. We will post the proposed budget on the City’s website, cityoflagrande.org, and you are welcome to contact me using the contact on our website or by calling 541-962-1309. 

I would be happy to answer any questions you may have. This year we will again televise the budget hearings, and I would encourage you to watch if you cannot attend the hearings.

About the author: 

Robert Strope joined the City of La Grande in January of 2008. Strope has more than 10 years of experience as a city manager in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. 

My Voice columns should be 500 to 700 words. Submissions should include a portrait-type photograph of the author. Authors also should include their full name, age, occupation and relevant organizational memberships. 

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