Tuesday, April 1, 2014

LMC to Honor a City for Engaging Residents in Budgeting

Many Minnesota residents are finding local property tax statements in their mailboxes this week.

The item they will most likely notice first is the box that shows last year's total tax amount compared to the amount due this year. That "bottom line" may be more, less, or roughly the same as the year before. Will that number be surprising?

Residents perennially wonder why the change from year to year. And, what exactly are those tax dollars used for?

But, if you're a city official doing a good job of communicating, those questions will be answered by the time residents get their tax bill. More than ever, it's important for you to engage residents when planning budgets and setting levies so taxpayers have at least a general picture of where their money is going—and where it's not. It's also important to learn from residents what city services and projects they most want the city to invest in.

Get recognized

Does your city have an original and effective way of engaging and informing residents throughout the budgeting process? Are you really getting at those perennial questions? If so, your work may be eligible for special recognition in the "Engaging Citizens in the Budget Process" topic category of the League's 2014 City of Excellence Awards competition.

Instead of or in addition to this topic, cities are also encouraged to submit general award nominations for honors among other cities in their population category.

General award nominations may include any city-led project or program that has:
  • Improved the quality of a city service.
  • Developed an effective or innovative way to solve an old or common problem.
  • Modified a program from another community or organization to fit city needs.
  • Saved city money while producing good results.
  • Involved residents or city staff in making a decision.
Winning cities will be recognized at the League's Annual Conference in St. Cloud, and will receive a $1,000 check. Last year's winners were Woodbury; St. Anthony Village; and a joint entry that included Centerville, Circle Pines, and Lexington. Last year's topical category winner ("Promoting Economic Development") was Chatfield.

While the process of planning a city budget is never really over, the deadline for 2014 City of Excellence Awards nomination submission is April 30.

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