On the Mayor’s Mind - The Budget

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Shoreline Mayor Shari Winstead
On the Mayor’s Mind - The Budget
September 22, 2014
By Shoreline Mayor Shari Winstead

When most of us talk about our budget, we are usually referring to our household budget. Money in vs. money out. Will you buy a new furnace or have that remodel project done? Or maybe this will be the year that you have your plumbing upgraded. But budgets are everywhere. In our homes, hopefully somewhere in the list of things we teach our kids about, and of course, in government.

There are many of us who work with budgets in our careers, and some who never really do much with a budget for their employer. My first real career-budget experience was when I was working for former King County Councilmember Bob Ferguson. In 2007, he was the Chair of the Budget Committee. I really had no idea what that meant, but I did know that at the King County Council, the Fall season was actually known as “budget season”.  I thought that was very peculiar. It was hard to grasp the depth of the work that would be done in analyzing income sources, and in making recommendations on where the money should be spent, and even more difficult, was how to fund really important projects, when there was no money in the coffers. 

First, almost every other King Council committee stops meeting during this time, because all the members are attending budget meetings. The budget is the only acceptable reason that pretty much every other issue is put on hold until January. It’s very complicated, with many decisions to be made, as well as many people to meet with to discuss ideas for how the money should be prioritized. It’s basically the same as your household budget - money in vs. money out. But where the money comes from, how much you expect to receive, and how it will be spent are all complicated issues. A lot of the work is making projections (known in our household budget as “our best guess”). Who decides how the money will be spent is not left to one or two people. Decisions are made by the elected leaders, only after receiving input from the public (that’s you). The year I was staffing the King County budget, we held 5 or 6  evening-meetings for the public in different locations through the County, - West Seattle, Kent, North Seattle, and Central Seattle. It was important that we went to different locations to give folks the opportunity to be heard. It was a great learning experience.

Something like a budget is not, to most people, very exciting. They think it will be boring, or hard to understand, or that their opinions don’t matter. And while I can agree that it is much more fun to be designing a community garden or talking about safety in our community, the budget is really where the rubber hits the road. It’s the process where we decide how your money is going to be spent - street maintenance, sidewalks, police services, investing in a marketing campaign to bring economic development to Shoreline.  It’s all in there - and your opinions do matter!

So please consider this your personal invitation to attend the budget meetings starting on Monday, 9/22. We will kick off the budget process with our first discussion of the the 2015 budget at our first meeting. This is probably the most interesting because it is an overview of what is coming in the 2015 budget. The actual budget is then delivered to the Council on October 13, and our budget focused meetings continue every Monday evening through Nov 10, with final adoption of the budget on November 24.

Come on out and learn what it’s all about, or you can always catch our meetings on public access TV (Ch. 21), or stream them from the internet.

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