AUSTIN -- The Austin City Council will vote on Austin's budget in September, and the council wants your feedback on how billions of dollars should be spent. That's why it's launching an innovative way to get more people involved in the budget process.
Police, Parks and Rec, and Transportation are just a few of the more than 30 city departments vying for dollars in Austin's 2014 budget.
“I think to be considered one of America's best managed cities it's important that we also involve our residents directly in the process of deciding where these dollars should go,” said City Manager Marc Ott.
Monday Ott unveiled Budget in a Box. The interactive tool comes with an eight-minute video that helps outline city services, how much they cost and how they're funded.
“And what we're asking citizens to do is to have a discussion in small groups about what their service priorities are, what are their feelings about city tax rates and their willingness to pay for service enhancements,” said Deputy Chief Financial Officer Ed van Eenoo.
Budget in a Box is designed to be used in groups of five to 10 people and has materials to help guide residents through the exercise. It's also available online.
“We want to take the mystery out of the budget process and be as transparent as possible,” Ott said.
Some residents were intrigued with Budget in a Box. They believe it’s an easy way to learn more about the process and let the City know what programs should be funded.
“Especially now with all of the problems we have, and the challenges we have, this is a great program to get people involved and interested,” said Jeff Ely.
“Because if it's condensed, and it's easy to read and has all the information that they're considering spending it on, yes, I would certainly look at it,” said Kimberley Mason.
You can order a Budget in a Box through the City's website.
For the first time, each department's financial forecast presentation is posted on the City's YouTube channel for the public to see. Normally, those budget presentations are made to the city council during an extensive public meeting.