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Make a difference in budget process in Lake Oswego

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The purpose of the following is to strongly encourage you to participate in the upcoming Lake Oswego 2011-2012 budget process. It contains: My take on the city budget document, how the Citizens Budget Committee works and an example of how you can make a difference.

My take:

Although the budget is presented and seen by many as a seemingly unending Excel spreadsheet and as a 'living document' (read changeable), it is much more. It is the clearest statement of what the city of Lake Oswego values. The budget document tells all citizens where the talent, time and treasure of the city will be spent e.g., Do we as a community value celebrating our 100th birthday over funding a community service officer or traffic engineer? Do we value planning for the future over taking care of the present? How much debt do we want to pass on to the next generation?

How the committee works:

The Citizens Budget Committee exists because the State of Oregon mandates that the budget process be open to the public to ensure that community interests [values] are represented in the budget. The committee is made up of 14 members - the mayor, six council members and seven volunteer citizens. It receives a proposed budget from the city manager and reviews its content to ensure that the budget meets the current and future needs of the community. The committee hears comments from the community, deliberates, makes changes and finally votes on a version of the budget to send on to the mayor and council for approval.

(The committee can vote 10 to 4 for its version of the budget only to have it overturned by the mayor and council 4 to 3.)

Can you make a difference? The answer is yes!

Last year a group of citizens came to a budget committee meeting to ask for help to resurface the Lakeridge High School tennis courts. They made their case on how they would partner with the city. They were very clear in presenting how their project would add value to the community as a whole. When pushed back by several committee members, they returned with clear and meaningful answers. Their request was granted.

As a member of the committee, I want your input. I want to hear your values. I want the committee to take into consideration what the community has to say. Come to the meetings. The schedule is posted on the city calendar - currently April 21 and four Thursdays in May - start time is 6 p.m. and the location is Lake Oswego City Hall.

Finally, to quote a past city councilor I recently had lunch with: 'One person can make a difference.'

Ron Smith, a Lake Oswego resident , serves as chair of the Citizens Budget Committee for the city of Lake Oswego.