Aug. 15, 2001
Lifting the lid on the city's 2002 budget-writing process, City Clerk Ed Skipper told reporters the other day the proposed $41.5 million budget was conceived without input from department heads. He said he, Mayor John Robert Smith and chief administrative officer Ken Storms did it.
This is a stunning disclosure. It is precisely this sort of behavior that causes the people of the city to wonder where they rate. Apparently, not very high.
Now, city department heads are in the same position. The process used by the supreme trio choked off any possibility that responsible people who supposedly serve them and the people had any ideas on the budget worth considering.
What does this say to the professionals whose salaries are paid by taxpayers and who manage city departments? And, further, if their ideas are not worth considering, why does the city even have department heads. Are we to believe city government is overloaded with department heads whose jobs are unnecessary?
We don't think so. We do think planning the budget is one of city government's most important functions. It is a spending blueprint that guides the direction of city government for the next year. All options should be explored, and all options can only be explored if all ideas are considered.
The Meridian Star believes a better approach would have been to involve city department heads, maybe even a few folks from the community at large, in the whole budget process. At least give them the opportunity to identify and justify their budget requests. It's called communication, and who knows what good ideas might have emerged.
In their all-seeing, all-knowing manner, Smith, Storms and Skipper met behind closed doors and came forth with a tax increase proposal and other budget-related items that are not universally accepted. In fact, none of their proposals were adequately vented because they closed off any possible debate.
If this is the way the mayor plans to steer the city's financial boat over the next four years, he is likely to encounter a few snags in the water.