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Bob Gipe's Christmas Village, comprised of 113 lighted
village buildings, two trains, a trolley and a creative
landscape, dazzled visitors at Christmas.
C-T Photo / Dalton Ripley

By Mayor Chuck Haney


After Christmas & New Year, it's budget season

After all of the holidays have passed, and the hustle and bustle of normalcy brings us all out of our end of year mindset, "Budget Season" now dawns upon City Hall. Although, as the City Administrator, responsibility for production of the Budget for the City rests primarily upon my shoulders, the fact is that many, many individuals are heavily involved in the process. Also, while the urgency of time is upon us because the final budget must be in place by approval of the City Council prior to the April 1, 2018, beginning of the fiscal year, the fact is that we have been working on the budget in one way or another almost from the moment I came to Chillicothe last August.

Department Heads have, for the last several weeks, been examining the current year's expenses and projects to get a base line of activity by which to gauge what may be possible to accomplish in the upcoming 2018-19 fiscal year. Each line item - from payroll to cleaning supplies - is judged as to its necessity for the functions which we are charged to perform, and those lines that can be cut back are being singled out for reduction. Obviously, personnel costs, including benefits, are at the top of the list for municipal expenditures.

It is imperative to take care of our employees, while demanding that we all work together to give the citizenry the most we can for their tax dollars. Gone are the days when "a government job" was seen as an easy gig. Today's municipal employees have to be flexible and industrious in how they implement the budgetary confines of limited revenues. We are not looking to diminish services in the face of potential revenue reductions, but rather we search for better and more cost effective ways to accomplish the same things. Because our employees have to be innovative problem solvers in order to meet these demands, it is even more important than it has ever been to make certain our employees are provided for in budgetary considerations. We cannot compete with private industry as it relates to wage rates to attract the best and the brightest, but we do try to provide benefit packages that offset some of the disparity. More importantly, we look for those people who possess skill sets that are broad enough to "wear many hats" for the City, and who seek the sense of satisfaction that true public service provides.

However, there is another, often overlooked, aspect to the production of the municipal budget, which is every bit as important to understand as is seeing the budget as the financial statement for the City. Governments at all levels are responsible for allocating scarce resources to those activities which are most needed by the communities they serve. As such, the City budget serves as a statement of policy priorities maintained by the elected officials charged with policy formation. The city council, the mayor, and all elected officials are given the task of formulating the policies by which the City will operate in each fiscal year. These decisions are the end result of the input of the general public being filtered through the leadership of those serving in these offices. Once the decisions are made as to what the City will do, the budget provides the allocation of resources to those policies and projects with the highest priorities so that they can be done. Lots of areas of work could be done by the City, if resources were infinitely available, but since they are not, difficult choices have to be made; and when the money is gone for a fiscal year, it's gone. So, while there are undoubtedly many good ideas about what "ought to be done" by the City, budgetary constrictions simply do not allow for lower priority projects to be accomplished without taking away from those projects more immediately needed. All of that being the case, a fair assessment of what the city council deems most necessary for the City to be doing (fire, police, streets, parks, etc.) can be found in the pages of the final budget for any year. This is combined with the fact that there are simply some things that a city in the state of Missouri cannot do, even if the citizens expect otherwise.

For example, we will, from time to time, get phone calls from citizens asking that the City come fix a problem on their private property. It is almost always a scenario that is completely understandable why it is that the property owner is seeking help... but the fact remains that the City cannot use public tax dollars to aid in the repairs or development of private properties to the benefit of individual citizens. We have also had people call and ask us to step in and make a private industry "be right" according to the estimation of the one registering the complaint. Again, it is completely understandable why a person may believe that their views ought to be supported by the authorities they support with their tax dollars. However, it is not within the purview of local governments to tell private citizens, or businesses, what they should do with their own properties or how they conduct their private business affairs unless the rights of others have been violated. Quite frankly, as tempting as it is for the one being burdened by the practices of another to want government to step in and make things fair, the reality is that local governments, including City Hall, should not have that kind of power. Liberty demands that government stay out of the way as much as possible for personal, private interests to thrive or fail based upon their own merits. The local market place determines who is a success in business, based upon losing or gaining customers, and the City has no more say over those activities than they should over any other private function. When it comes to all such areas of concern, unless someone's rights are being violated by the actions of a private entity, our hands are tied from interfering, and they should be. City Hall should not be in the business of picking winners and losers in the free market of property or ideas.

In a few months, after all of the workings behind the scenes have been accomplished, a new budget for the City will be presented to the council. Those leaders will then vote to approve the document or suggest changes be made according to their views representing the community will. Once that occurs, it will then be the task of each municipal employee to take those resources and use them in the most cost effective, innovative ways we can, to make Chillicothe continue to be a place where businesses, families, people, and our common culture thrive.

C-T Photo 12/20/2017

I have already told you more than I know.

Mayor Haney's "Around Our Town" column is available in the Chillicothe Constitution Tribune newspaper the first week of each month. His additional columns, "On the Street", are also available in the newspaper weekly.

Mayor Haney on Ingram's list of 50 Missourians You Should Know (March 27, 2013)

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