Local city councils are sometimes lumped under the umbrella of “government,” which, of course, they are, but there are differences.
There are times when people think city councils spend money indiscriminately, but that may not be a fair assessment.
There may certainly be projects or other expenditures with which we do not agree, but this doesn’t necessarily mean cities are ignoring taxpayers.
I have observed more council meetings than I can count, and during deliberations, council members almost universally question how their decisions will affect residents. This is especially true at this time of year when councils and administrators are preparing preliminary budgets for the coming year.
During this process, they are also cognizant of other factors that affect residents’ family budgets, including tax increases from other units of government and school districts, increasing gas prices, utility prices, and more. They actively seek grant money to support city projects. Council members are also taxpayers in the city.
When possible, councils will sometimes spread costs over time to make it easier for residents to plan their budgets by mitigating peaks and valleys in the local levy.
There are many factors that go into city budgets, but at the end of the day, councils need to ensure that their cities have the money to operate and provide the services residents expect.
In doing this, councils face some of the same challenges as residents. For example, when gas prices go up, it affects residents and businesses, but it also affects cities by increasing the cost of snow removal.
When considering budgets, city councils need to figure out how much money they will need to operate in the coming year and how much they will need to levy, taking into account other revenue sources such as fees and local government aid.
Unlike city councils, which have the best understanding of what their residents want and need, state and federal representatives seem to spend most of their time fighting with the other party and catering to special interest groups. They seem to have forgotten that they represent all residents. Thankfully, most city councils still seem to remember that.