County Citizen’s Gov’t Academy to be formed in lieu of citizen’s budget review

During a recent workshop, county commissioners considered what level of citizen involvement in the budget review would be constructive while also providing a deeper knowledge of the county’s operations and budget process.

The Budget Review Committee (BRC) is currently comprised of county employees appointed by County Manager William Wilson.

While desiring citizen input, officials agreed that it did not need to be structured in such a way that would require the expenses involved with publicizing the meetings in compliance with Sunshine Laws.

Flowers-Taylor addressed Wilson, citing concern that only employees currently serve on the BRC.

“The people who are on the Budget Review Committee work for you. If I was on the Budget Review Committee, I wouldn’t be saying anything that was going to make you mad,” she said to Wilson. “I’m not saying that you don’t need to be there, but you’re the boss. The whole purpose of the Citizen Review Committee is that they aren’t tied to you.”

Parks and Recreation Parks Supervisor TJ Imberger took exception to the suggestion that county employees were stymied from expressing constructive input, even if it may displease Wilson.

Addressing Flowers-Taylor, Imberger shook his head and said, “I think you need to come to a meeting.”

It was then explained that Commissioner Raymond Ray and State Court Judge Sid Esary are also members of the Budget Review Committee, serving as a type of check-and-balance system.

Ray said the first step that should be addressed is identifying the purpose and intent of the citizen involvement.

“You have all these people who do this every day and have all this knowledge, and that’s what the citizens will bring,” Flowers-Taylor said.

Ray said he does not oppose the involvement, but that without some form of training, residents who are unfamiliar with the county’s complex budget process would be limited in the productive input they could provide.

Gardner said his original intent in suggesting citizen involvement was to help residents become better connected to the process, which would provide a deeper understanding of the intricacies involved in setting the county’s budget.

Wilson said he thought the commissioners’ goals could be accomplished by establishing a Citizen’s Government Academy along the same vein as the city of Griffin’s.

“I think that’s kind of a combination that will make everyone happy,” he said.

Commissioner Rita Johnson said she would also like to see a better utilization of social media to inform the public.

“How are we getting it out there now?” she asked. “Social media is a big thing now, so what can we do?”

Wilson said information is disseminated via the county’s website, but said he can also make it available on the county’s Facebook page.

He also suggested later considering installing a fixed camera system that would allow BoC meetings to be recorded and posted online.

Flowers-Taylor agreed to these ideas, but also added that they feel residents would prefer to be involved in the budget process from its earliest phases.

Commissioner Bart Miller concurred, saying, “If they’re not going to be able to do that, they don’t want to be involved. They want to be a part of it. They want to be able to state their opinion after they’ve heard what you have to say.”

Gardner said he remains committed to increasing citizen involvement, but that the responsibility ultimately falls to the county commissioners.

“I think one thing we need to be cognizant of is we are the citizens’ representatives. We were elected to make these decisions,” he said.  Ω

 

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