Our city’s annual budgeting process is now underway and won’t be completed until December.
I can speak for City Council when I assure you that we’re always cognizant of the fact that the decisions we make must accurately reflect the needs, desires and values of the residents of Durango.
How much we accomplish during 2020 may appear to boil down to simple math – i.e., how we spend the city’s money. But there’s more to the budget than simple math.
Our city charter, established in 1912, allows for significant citizen input during the budgetary process. You will be able to participate most effectively if you understand the process and take note of opportunities the city provides to inform citizens and to receive citizen input.
Here’s what you need to know:
During a retreat in July, City Council nailed down new and relevant goals for the city. These goals were officially adopted on Sept. 3 and may be viewed at www.durangogov.org/HotTopics. The importance of this work cannot be overstated, as these goals directly influence the city budget.
While council worked on goals, our city manager was meeting with department heads to discuss individual department priorities and objectives. Those department priorities and objectives, along with City Council’s goals, will form the basis of the city manager’s proposed 2020 budget.
The city manager will submit an initial draft of the 2020 budget to City Council on Oct. 1. This draft will be available to the public at that time and may be viewed at www.durangogov.org/HotTopics when completed.
Meanwhile, City Council is already receiving emails from residents about potential or proposed programs, projects and issues that these residents feel deeply about. We’re hearing a lot, for instance, from residents excited about our newly enacted sustainability goals. Many of them are asking us to support additional funding to ensure we can meet those goals.
This is the beauty of our representative form of government – citizens making their desires known to City Council members (email@example.com), who can then use their influence as elected officials to direct spending to meet community needs. This is why your input is such an essential part of the budgeting process.
But contacting your council members by email is only one of many ways you can influence budget decisions. Residents can attend and speak during the public participation segment at any regularly scheduled City Council meeting, on the first or third Tuesday of every month beginning at 6:30 p.m.
City Council will meet for two full-day retreats Oct. 7 and 8 from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Durango Public Library Program Room #2, to review the proposed budget with staff, discuss the needs of various departments, and gain understanding of the details behind the numbers. These meetings are open to the public and recorded for maximum transparency.
During these meetings, City Council will provide further direction to staff, reallocating spending (if and where needed) to meet community needs and city council goals.
Citizens may also attend and speak at a public hearing devoted to the budget during our regularly scheduled city council meeting on Nov. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at City Council chambers.
The following week, at a Nov. 12 City Council study session, council will review the 2020 budget “reconciliation,” which is a line-item list of each change made to the draft budget in response to input from the community and City Council’s redirection of funds.
The city’s finance department will then produce a formal and balanced version of the new budget. City Council will vote on and officially adopt the new budget on Dec. 3 at its regularly scheduled City Council meeting. It will go into effect Jan. 1.
Durango’s chosen form of municipal government, as set forth in our city charter, is “home rule.” Simply put, cities with this form of governance have much more freedom to self-govern than non-home rule cities. This is empowering for citizens, but this power comes with a responsibility.
Your input is not only valued; it is needed! Wise budgeting for the coming year is a crucially important process in our community. We hope to hear from you in the coming months, throughout our budgetary process.
Melissa Youssef is mayor of Durango, a position rotating among members of City Council. Reach her at Melissa.Youssef@DurangoGov.org.