Steamboat Springs launches educational budget tool
January 6, 2012
Steamboat Springs — The city of Steamboat Springs has a new tool to help educate members of the community about the government while allowing them to provide feedback.
The budgeting survey will be available at http://www.steamboatsprings.net starting Monday. The survey asks people to prioritize a list of city services, which are provided with a cost that totals $1.42, but there is only $1 to spend.
Deputy City Manager Deb Hinsvark, who also serves as the city's finance director, said Friday that the survey asks community members how they would prioritize government services if there are more expenses than revenue.
"This is basically a question saying, 'Golly, if it gets to a point we can't pay for everything, what do we pay for?'" she said.
The survey starts with an explanation about the city's finances and about why cuts may be necessary in the future.
Community members will decide how to allocate the $1 to 22 government services, including police and fire, recreation programs, the free local bus service, snowplowing and funding the Steamboat Springs Bike Town USA Initiative. There's also a question mark next to each item that provides more information if clicked.
The services are listed in alphabetical order, and each has a prorated cost. As each funding selection is made, the cost is subtracted from $1 until available funds reach zero.
Hinsvark said the services listed account for more than 60 percent of the city's general fund. She said the survey included everything but the costs associated with running the city government, such as administration of each department.
During a recent presentation to Steamboat Springs City Council, City Manager Jon Roberts explained the reasoning behind the creation of the survey.
"We've talked for years about going online and getting the community more involved," he said. "I think this (survey) is a wonderful way to get started."
City Council member Sonja Macys said Friday that she's excited to take the survey but offered some caution.
"I think it's fun, but it's not science," she said. "It's a fun, educational tool for the community to understand what items are included in the city budget and to have some interaction with the challenges that staff and City Council face. I just hope that nobody tries to use the data generated from that as a scientific tool for decision making. That, in my opinion, would be inappropriate."
Hinsvark said that wasn't the intention of the survey. She said it was designed to engage the community and provide education about the process while providing a way for community members to provide feedback to City Council.
"I would like to take the information back to council to see if it's helpful to them," she said. "I have no guarantees if it will be or won't be. But it's important for them to know what their community thinks. Hopefully, this is helpful information for them."
The survey will be available through January.
To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com