Long Beach citty officials are letting some sunlight in on their budgeting process (photo: nikkorsnapper/Flickr)
When it comes to our own personal finances, many of us make a budget that doles out certain amounts of money to bills and other such expenses. Then we make sure to stick to it, so we don’t end up in the red at the end of every month.
Well, local governments have to do the same. So does our state government. We guess that’s why sometimes it’s so hard for many of us to understand why our elected leaders can’t do the same by coming up with a balanced budget in a timely manner.
Think you can do it? Now you can. Long Beach city leaders recently launched the Long Beach Budget Challenge, an online simulation for residents to better understand the complexities involved in the budget process.
“The Long Beach Budget Challenge exercise lets residents ‘balance’ the City’s budget, by deciding how much money to spend for public works, libraries, parks, and recreation, public safety and other City services-and how to pay for them,” said Mayor Bob Foster.
The Challenge gives folks who live in the city a chance to truly understand the public policy challenges when balancing a budget and how giving money to certain services impact other services areas. The online simulation reflects some of the services that may be impacted in an effort to balance the 2013 budget.
Long Beach, like many municipalities throughout the state, has seen their general fund shrink year after year, partly because of the economy, decreased tax revenues and increasing costs like employee costs. Providing the same level of service to its residents has been difficult.
“The City of Long Beach can longer provide the levels of service its residents have come to expect , and some very difficult decisions must be made,” said Foster.
For the upcoming 2013 fiscal budget, the city faces a $17.2 million deficit in their general fund which supports services residents have grown used to like police, fire, parks and recreation and more. If that’s not alarming enough—over the next two years, the city estimates it will need to cut $17.3 million more if current services are kept.
It’s not ideal and it’s not what you want to hear, but it’s reality. So give it a shot, see if you can balance the city’s budget. You’ll be able to compare yours to your neighbors. The Budget Challenge is not a formal survey.