Calistoga is about to begin its yearly review and analysis of how it plans to spend taxpayers’ money, and city leaders are not only welcoming, but practically begging citizens to attend these meetings.
At a recent city council meeting Mayor Chris Canning called out to the city’s two weekly newspapers, including this one, to publish the city’s budget planning sessions and encourage citizens to get involved.
City Manager Dylan Feik wrote a letter to the editor (see Page A4) that explains, in his opinion, why the budget process is something that all citizens should be involved in, and encourages Calistogans to come out and be a part of the process that begins on Monday, March 19.
In recent years, at least for the past five, it is rare that citizens attend these meetings.
The city will begin its budget review and study sessions on Monday, March 19, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Calistoga Fire Station, 1113 Washington St. Study sessions in the past have been lightly attended by anyone other than city council members and city staff. Canning and Feik, and other council members, have expressed their dismay that more citizens are not involved in the process, which essentially describes how taxpayer dollars will be spent.
Canning, in several public meetings, forums, and other events, has enthusiastically encouraged citizens to get involved so that they can have more control over the spending of their tax dollars. It’s an involvement his father supported and one of the reasons he decided to get involved in civic process, he has said in the past.
He especially wants people to get involved in the planning process, such as the upcoming budget study sessions, to get ahead of any spending topics that occur later in the year. He has said in the past that if people were involved in the budget study sessions, their opinions and wishes could be expressed at the time and influence the decision-making bodies before the topics come up in council meetings later in the year, or even later in future budget process years.
The budget study sessions are set as follows:
Monday, March 19, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for council goal setting study at the Fire Station.
Thursday, May 10 from noon to 5 p.m. for the council budget study at the Fire Station.
Thursday, May 17 from noon to 5 p.m. for the council budget study at the Fire Station.
Tuesday, June 5, beginning at 6 p.m. at the regularly scheduled City Council meeting at the Community Center for adoption of the budget.
In Feik’s letter he points out the rigorous process the city goes through to develop the budget, and that the city’s finance department was awarded special honors for five years straight for its efforts.
“Since 2012, the city has received the ‘Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting’ for its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for each fiscal year,” Feik wrote.
But for Feik, it’s not just about lauding the city’s principles, it goes deeper than that.
“While the annual budget is not the most exciting process, it is my favorite part of being a city manager. Oftentimes, residents observe issues, concerns or simply a new ‘thing’ that would make our community a bit better. We use the annual budget process as a way to move the city forward one fiscal year at a time,” he said.