Little public participation during the annual budget process continues to be a concern for Janesville officials.
The city council held a special meeting Wednesday afternoon to review its annual budget process and to identify strengths and weaknesses to consider next year.
Max Gagin, finance director, presented the council with city staff’s feedback before collecting feedback from the council.
The council echoed much of what staff had to say.
Council and staff shared concerns about little public engagement in the process.
Nobody spoke during a public hearing held for the budget this year. That has been the case in several recent years, council members noted.
Council member Paul Benson suggested holding the initial budget presentation during a regularly scheduled council meeting, rather than a special meeting, could help draw attention from residents who might be regular attendees or paying attention to ongoing issues.
Council member Doug Marklein said he would like to see the presentation at a special meeting to avoid long meetings. Staff also was concerned about the presentation potentially happening late during a busy council meeting.
Other members were split on when the presentation should be held, but nobody had noticeably strong opinions either way.
Benson, echoing staff, floated a concern about council members proposing budget amendments on the same night as or after the budget’s public hearing is held.
Council members have the opportunity to discuss and propose budget amendments during budget study sessions typically held in October. Once the budget is presented in November, the council indicates to the public the budget is up to its expectations, said City Manager Mark Freitag.
Proposing amendments at the same time or after the public hearing denies the public time to give feedback and denies the council time to consider feedback before approving the budget, Freitag said.
Freitag said council members have not proposed late amendments recently, but it has happened in the past.
Susan Johnson, who is serving her first year on the council, suggested city staff provide some form of budget orientation for new council members prior to budget season.
Longtime council member Paul Williams went a step further, suggesting budget orientations be available for all council members because things tend to change over time.