Ashland Budget Exclusive: Restriction of Input from Citizen Members on the Budget Committee – Hampering Citizen Oversight of the Budget
Background: The Ashland Budget Committee is a state required committee with elected officials balanced by equal citizen representation. The committee is comprised of seven appointed citizens, the mayor and the city council. Check the city website for their charge and responsibility http://www.ashland.or.us/CCBIndex.asp?CCBID=200.
A serious problem is developing. The Council listed 28 items to “add on” to budget on April 3. In the last eight years, the budget process always included the “add on” list as part of the discussion of the budget with the full Budget Committee. Now, without any announcement or discussion of the full committee about a “new” budget process, the Council is excluding the citizen members of the committee from the discussion of very expensive “add on” projects. Check out the list http://www.ashland.or.us/SIB/files/040317%2DBudget_Add_ins(1).pdf.
The council has begun to make budget decisions that will cost Ashland residents and property owners without the input of the citizen members of the Budget Committee. An example of this is the approval by the council of five new police officers at a cost of $500,000+. This was on the “add on” list which use to require a vigorous discussion by the 14 member Budget Committee. However, the Council took this item off the “add on” budget list to pass unanimously a budget item that has no critical input nor a funding plan. Initial proposals for funding the new police officers are to partially pay for this budget increase with a $3.50/month surcharge on resident utility bills. The Council now expects the citizens on the committee to rubber stamp their decision and to find a way to pay for it without their input to a significant budget increase.
This Council action is contrary to the spirit of Oregon law, if not in fact outright violations.
Watch The Ashland Chronicle for future developments.