By Mary Ellen Leonard, Director of Fiscal Services
In recent years, city leaders have managed our day-to-day operations while weighing the effects of the pandemic, a historic winter storm, supply shortages, and inflation on the city’s finances.
Understanding a $400 million city budget has become more complicated than opening a document and deciphering the numbers. That’s why the College Station City Council spends long hours scrutinizing the complexities in special workshops each summer.
Thankfully, the city now has a more straightforward way for citizens to wrestle with how we can allocate limited funds to almost limitless needs — and we can see how their feedback looks.
Prioritize is an online tool that details some of College Station’s more significant budgeting decision points. As public servants, we always want to know what you think should be our priorities, which is precisely what this tool allows you to express in an easy format accessible by computer, smartphone, or tablet. Prioritize also has a place for comments.
The handy tool can help residents rank some of the key needs in the General Fund, the largest of about 120 funds in the city budget. Fiscal Services staff will accumulate the rankings and provide your input to the city council. We are hopeful budget tool’s ease will result in more timely public feedback as we finalize the budget in July and August.
How to Participate
Once in the simulation, click on an item, and a checkmark will appear. You can click the blue “i” for more details about the need. In the comment box, you can share your thoughts about an item. Once you have marked what you think we should consider, go to the ranking section at the bottom right. Simply drag and drop the items selected in the order of your priorities, with No. 1 being the most important.
That’s all there is to it.
You can participate through July 10. Meanwhile, we’ll check the website frequently for your comments and input. If you have questions about the city’s budget or the Prioritize tool, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be happy to help or hear your thoughts.
We encourage you to take advantage of this easy way to learn more about our budget process while expressing your priorities.
About the Blogger
Mary Ellen Leonard has been the city’s director of fiscal services since 2016. She previously was the chief financial officer for the Grub Burger Bar restaurant chain and operated her accounting firm for 14 years. A CPA since 1988, Mary Ellen has also served as a senior manager at Accenture and Arthur Andersen, CFO at Devereux Hospital, and senior financial analyst at Tenneco Gas Pipeline. She earned a degree in accounting from Texas A&M in 1986.
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