Update: Did The Budget Process Change This Year As Promised?

After heavy public criticism of the budget process in 2018, Assistant City Manager Adam Blowers announced last December that Council had decided the process would “change” in 2019, allowing Council more time to “think things through” and to “give the public a chance to speak on their priorities.”

Instead, the 2019 budget process is actually significantly less transparent, as the public only has three weeks instead of six weeks to review the proposed budget.

Budget Process Changes Promised

In October 2018, the Geneva City Council used used their final 2019 budget session to make dramatic, last-second cuts to the city’s anti-poverty effort, the Economic Opportunity Task Force, and the Office of Neighborhood Initiatives, which is overseeing the creation of the Task Force. Public criticism of the budget process followed, first with a Geneva Believer article detailing the budget cuts, followed by two columns published in the Finger Lakes Times, both critical of Council’s decision to slash ONI funds.

During a December 9, 2018 appearance on Fingerlakes1.com‘s “Inside the FLX” with Josh Durso, Assistant City Manager Adam Blowers reported that during their recent annual retreat, Council decided they would change the budget process in 2019 to allow more time for staff and Council to “think things through,” and to give the public more of an opportunity to speak during the process.

“We talked with City Council and we think we’re gonna change the way we do a few things with budget for next year. Just because we all felt, Council included, like a lot of things came out kind of right at the last minute, and didn’t give Council enough time to really think things through, didn’t give staff enough time to think things through.

 

So we just want to kind of spread that out a little bit more. And also give the public a chance to speak on their priorities as well.”

So, how much did the budget process change in 2019?

The answer is: very, very little.

Budget Process Changes Little From Years Past, With Less Time For Public Review

As previously reported by Geneva Believer, here is the budget process that was used until 2018.

2018 Budget Process

  • August – Proposed 2019 budget released 8/22
  • October – Public hearing held during first City Council Meeting
  • October – Two or three additional work sessions with no public input, 2019 budget adopted

With Blowers’ promise to “spread (the process) out a little more” and “give the public a chance to speak,” how has the process changed in 2019?

2019 Budget Process

  • June – City Council budget session is held, with no public input
  • September – Proposed 2020 budget released 9/11, 3 weeks later than previous years
  • September – Council work session with no public input
  • October – Public hearing held during first City Council Meeting
  • October – Two or three additional work sessions with no public input, 2020 budget adopted

So, there are only three changes – added Council sessions in June and September, and the release of the proposed budget three weeks later than previous years.

That’s it. Those are the “changes” that were promised.

The “change” in 2019 provides NO additional public input, and actually shortens the amount of time for the proposed budget to be reviewed by the public and Council.

The Budget Process Is Not Better…It’s Actually Worse

By releasing the proposed budget in September instead of August, the public only has three weeks to review the budget, and offer their comments at the October City Council meeting.

There are NO additional public comment opportunities.

And City Council will, once again, be using the same October process that allows them to make dramatic, significant budget changes at the last minute, without any public input whatsoever.

Of course, this isn’t the fault of Adam Blowers. He simply promised what City Council told him to promise.

Please click the following link to view the Proposed 2020 Budget:

City of Geneva Proposed Budget 2020 With Appendices

You have eight days from today to review the budget before the October 2nd City Council meeting, when the public will have their only opportunity to offer feedback before the budget is adopted.

Believe!

 

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