Most of us have different views on the role that government plays in our lives and, more importantly, the role that government should play in our lives. The role that government can play in society is continually defined and redefined by the courts, sometimes with one decision reversing a previous decision. However, for the most part, we agree that government should provide services we cannot reasonably or economically provide for ourselves, such as an orderly society or safe streets. But these critical services and infrastructure come at significant cost.
Until I was elected I never really understood government financing and often wondered why the “government” doesn’t just manage our tax dollars the way we manage our home budget. Fortunately, the City of Montgomery is the first government budget I understand. It is clearly presented with conservative income and expense projections and a five-year outlook. The capital and operating budget books provide transparency and clearly show the direction the City intends to take. The five-year forecast allows the City to plan for things as mundane as the expiration of a trash collection contract and big-ticket items such as the public infrastructure necessary for economic development projects like the Vintage Club North and Gateway Redevelopment Area.
Beginning in July, Montgomery employees entered into the “Budget Zone.” Everyone has been frantically working to ensure that the upcoming budget aligns with the 2015-2021 Strategic Plan. Supporting this process is legislation to clean up last year’s budget, moving money from one account to another because expenses were lower than expected, or grants arrived to cover an expense, etc. As required by State law, Council has approved the tax budget, which goes to other government agencies so that the City can continue to collect taxes necessary for the high level of service that Montgomery provides. And let’s not forget that our 2017 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report is finalized and available for public inspection at City Hall.
As Montgomery continues to work through the budget, there will be public meetings. In early September, Council will review the budget with staff, where each department will explain their financial projections. In October, City Council will begin adopting the ordinances to put the budget in place. And finally, by the end of the year, the budget will be approved. The drawn-out budget process is intended to ensure that the budget is transparent and that Montgomery citizens have multiple opportunities to share their views.