Letter: Know Thy Budget

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Before we know it, election time will be fast upon us, whether or not any of us are truly prepared to make our best decision as to whom and to what we will cast our vote. I have looked, listened, and read much about the many candidates who are seeking a seat on our all-powerful City Council.

My major concern with this election cycle is all about our city budget and the money therein and how our tax dollars are not only collected, but how and who makes the spending decisions—from grants to gifts, and all the basic costs to run our town. Just how much do these candidates and current council members actually know how our budget works? I have been to the city budget webpage more than once, only to discover how complex this document really is. Indeed, it is a monster to wade through and attempt to have it make any sense. Just my review of over 250 pages led me to ask the question—does the right hand truly know what the left hand is doing and choosing?

When any government needs more funds, fees—which are really hidden taxes and just ask Chief Justice Roberts—are increased to make costs work without knowing the budget well enough to determine where any possible reductions can be made or even cuts can be made. Just look at the costs for permits and the costly permit process as any of us attempt to improve our property. Look at all the fee increases, from dog licenses to business licenses, to the cost of a traffic ticket, all leading to greater and often times more unnecessary spending and even surpluses because the money is/will be there. Our small local government tends to behave like most, if not all governments. When additional funds are needed, government will use the old gimmick of fear that public services will be cut or public safety will be put in jeopardy to convince taxpayers we need to ante up to save the helpless citizens. Our political leaders must first see where money can be saved or even cut. Yes, candidates as well as current council members, and all city staff, must have a meaningful understanding of our city budget. During this campaign process, each candidate needs to be asked how much of an understanding they have of our budget.

My search for the best qualified three new council members continues, and at the time I cast my vote, I will be confident that those I support will know and understand this city budget of ours and know how to keep our tax dollars safe and respected.

Jim Gothard, Laguna Beach

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