Bend City Councilors have all but put the final touches on next year’s budget, but you can still take a stab at putting your own fiscal blueprint together with an online calculator developed by the city that lets average citizens call the shots.
The online tool is similar to one develop by an advocacy group earlier this year that looked at Oregon’s state budget. That tool was intended to show how cuts would impact services and helped users get a sense of the challenge faced by legislators who are wrestling with a $3 billion shortfall.
While the Bend budget tool allows users to shuffle numbers around, it’s not quite as dramatic as the original tool. For instance, the state budget balancer tended to show how cuts would impact particular populations, such as the elderly, mentally disabled, or children. Whereas the Bend budget tool allows you to shuffle dollars around that impact less gut-wrenching services like snow plowing and transportation planning.
While the Bend Budget Tool, gives a sense of the choices and the prioritization process, there’s also no clear-cut goal that I could discern. It would be helpful if the city were a little more clear about the exact budget shortfall and then let users start cutting programs and raising fees to see if the gap can be closed.
If all this budget discussion strikes a chord, you can see firsthand how councilors come down on the issues later this month at their final budget adoption meeting, June 27.