San Antonio recently passed its fiscal 2007 budget that will increase the city’s financial reserves, allow for increased street maintenance, and enhance emergency services. In a city press release, City Manager Sheryl Sculley calls this year’s budget “a true collaboration between the Mayor and Council, City employees and the community.”
The “Budget Season,” which began six months ago, involved significantly enhanced community and employee input.
Residents were invited to provide input on the proposed budget, presented online and at a series of community hearings. For the first time ever, highlights of the proposed budget were also circulated to over 160,000 “households” in the San Antonio Express-News, the local newspaper.
“We wanted to get the word out to the community and hear what they had to say,” says Marc Castro, Senior Management Coordinator in the San Antonio Office of Management & Budget.
The city created a suggestion-box system called the “Community Budget Input Dropbox,” or “c-BID” – for citizens to submit their comments and suggestions via email or on paper in actual drop boxes at neighborhood libraries and other public facilities. Over 400 suggestions were received through the c-BID system, marking a significant increase in public input from years past. A similar system for employees – “Employee Budget Input Dropbox” – was also established.
Castro says that the city received some very good ideas from citizens and employees – some of which have already been implemented. One example was to better clean downtown sidewalks and the riverwalk areas. As a part of the FY 2007 budget, the city added two new daily riverwalk maintenance crews. Other suggestions that were addressed included enhancing street maintenance and the library system.
Residents also used the c-BID system to submit other requests to the city, from increasing public safety by adding lighting outside the main plaza park to fixing an historic clock that hangs on the city’s downtown municipal plaza building. Although these requests weren’t directly related to budget issues, they were forwarded to the appropriate contacts, and the city took action.
While the c-BID tool was designed specifically with the proposed budget in mind, community input is intended to be ongoing, says Castro.