“Action expresses priorities.” — Mahatma Gandhi

A couple of years ago I wrote column with the following statement: “the new council will be making difficult decisions in the next 1 to 3 years, which will be harder if we keep doing things the same and expecting the outcome to change.”Berg

At that time all the projects on the table had a cumulative cost of $200-plus million and exceeded $12,900 for every household in Lake Oswego. Quite a few citizens were concerned about this and I received a lot of questions and comments. This fact began a healthy and insightful discussion about our community priorities.

Last month the Citizens Budget Committee met to provide guidance to our new city manager before developing his proposed FY14/15 budget. What observers saw on TV was a CBC that was focused and which established firm priorities for our new city manager. This may have been a surprise to some, but it’s the culmination of years of extensive discussions throughout our community.

The more we identify our issues and our options, the more a consensus develops in our community. I believe this is due to the culture of Lake Oswego. We all have common values that cross partisan, philosophical and ideological divides. It’s a unique community where informed citizens often evaluate the situation and reach conclusions rapidly. Our future is very bright as long as we stick to the facts and avoid the spin that’s often intended to distract us.

As chair last year I introduced CBC to a new budget methodology which focuses on the “operating budget’ of the city. It addresses areas where we can actually make adjustments and establish priorities within our limited amount of available funds. This contrasts sharply with areas where spending is committed and we have little ability for real change. My goal was to encourage CBC members to add value by identifying specific options over the long term. CBC members had a lively and open discussion, proposed new ideas, established clear priorities and recommended specific changes. The recommended budget last year was adopted without revision (by the council) for the first time in 4-plus years.

This budget cycle the WEB continues to use our constrained general funds, which places a lot of pressure on us to prioritize spending. We are required to simultaneously preserve our core services, fund increasing benefit costs and also service our debt. It’s a balancing act where CBC is forced to rationalize the “nice to have” services with our core services, while simultaneously attempting to find funding for several capital projects in public safety.

That balancing act is a difficult task, which is why CBC evaluates both the budget and the proposed “decision packages.”

Our new city manager will likely propose a budget with decision packages that clearly define the key issues ahead. This will certainly stimulate open discussion amongst the diverse opinions within the CBC members. It’s an excellent group of citizens with the difficult task of trying to preserve our community character. They truly need your support and your input.

Thank you for your comments, your suggestions and your emails (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). Lake Oswego needs your views, your solutions, and your feedback. They make not only for a better budget but also for an exceptional community.

Dave Berg is a 23-year resident of Lake Oswego, a board member of COLA LO and chairman of the Lake Oswego Budget Committee.

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