As I was speaking to someone on Tuesday about local government affairs, it dawned on me that we are almost in the midst of budget season for our local government entities.
Around the period stretching from July through October, many local government entities shift their focus toward funding projects and departments for the next fiscal year. With every local entity participating, from education institutions like Amarillo ISD and Amarillo College, to municipalities like the City of Amarillo, the budget talks will be a common thing throughout the state of Texas.
While it is important to find out which departments will be lavishly funded and which departments will suffer the wrath of politicians, it is also important to note how those politicians will order their priorities. During the 2017 municipal election, for example, voters often heard about how Mayor Ginger Nelson and the city council would be dedicated to public safety. However, when budget time rolled around, the Amarillo Police Department took a budget cut, while Nelson and the Council made sure to approve a nearly $200,000 funding increase for the city manager's office.
Looking at 2017's final budget, this City Council cut funds for Emergency Management, Information Technology and Water Distribution last year. Meanwhile, City leadership has begged and borrowed to make sure the downtown baseball stadium project went through without a hitch. While City leadership dedicated their focus toward downtown development, other departments have had to suffer the consequences. The concrete hole across from City Hall should tell residents all they need to know about whether or not the City believes in living within its means.
Later this year, we will find out exactly what the plans are for the upcoming fiscal year. Will the City Council attempt to shut down important community services again? Will the City Council give the city manager's office another big budget boost? Will emergency funding continued to get slashed while City pet projects receive unwavering support from local officials?
I guess we shall see whether citizens and taxpayers are prioritized by City leadership during the upcoming budget session and how they will play that card come re-election time.
-Thomas Warren III, Editor-in-Chief