|2016 budget is now online - after nearly five months of waiting.|
While this is good news, one has to wonder why the Hastings city government waited this long to show exactly how they are spending taxpayer dollars. Why wait 4 1/2 months into the budget year to place the detailed budget information online?
What comes next? Joining the rest of most Minnesota cities and have the detailed budget for the following year online and accessible to the public before it is voted on by our elected officials. Hastings doesn't do this for some reason.
Does anyone honestly think that the City of Minneapolis, for example, could get by with just issuing an "overview" of the coming year's budget during the Truth in Taxation meeting in December, but not share any details of where resident tax dollars would be spent? This is why cities hold budget meetings - open to the public at times when most folks can attend (no, not at 7:30 am on a weekday) - so citizens can see the budget details and then consult with their council members prior to any vote taking place.
Not so in Hastings. The full, detailed budget for the coming year isn't placed online until after it is formally approved by the Hastings City Council in mid-December. In 2014, the full 2015 budget was placed online on the day after it was approved by the council.
That was bad enough (no citizens saw the budget before it was voted on), but in 2015, even this didn't happen. Residents had to wait until May 16 to see all of the line-item details in the 2016 budget - a full 4 1/2 months into the year.
Here's a thought - For the 2017 budget, the City of Hastings should set a date well in advance of the Truth in Taxation meeting and council approval meeting to place the detailed 2017 budget online. How about November 1? Or even November 15?
A date in November would surely enough time for the council's budget committee and City Administrator to create the document, store it as a PDF, and place it online for public consumption. If changes are made to it after this time, simply make a note of them and add the edits to the document.
The citizens of Hastings have a right to see where their money is being spent - well in advance of when their elected officials approve the budget. It only makes sense.