Citizens question dearth of budget details

Robert Smith

During a municipal budget hearing June 11, Pawhuska residents voiced a desire for more user-friendly access to budget information.

Stuart Tolson asked whether, considering the digital nature of much contemporary communication, the draft budget can be placed online in addition to being published as a legal notice in the newspaper.

“Was the budget posted online anywhere?” he said.

It had not been.

Mayor Roger Taylor said city government will do a better job of getting information out.

“We’ll see if we can do a little better job,” Taylor said.

Addie Roanhorse also asked about access to budget information. There were no printed copies of details of the proposed 2019-2020 budget available in the City Council chambers for residents to use in asking questions. The first item on the agenda June 11 was a public hearing for the public to ask questions.

“Well, where is this budget? How can I get my hands on it?” Roanhorse said.

She also noted there had not been enough copies of the council meeting agenda provided for the public so that everyone could have a copy.

Ward 2 Councilor Jourdan Foran advocated for more public access to budget information and asked that the Journal-Capital insure the legal-ad summary of the budget is also published online.

During the hearing, Foran asked questions about the budget draft, of which she and other councilors had copies. For instance, Foran questioned a revenue projection in the budget draft that showed the city anticipating $10,000 under the heading “alcohol fine assessment.” She said it struck her as “a little strange.”

Foran also asked at one point if anyone from the Pawhuska Hospital was present. No one spoke up. She said that she had been concerned there was no money allocated for the line item for “contingency” spending for the hospital.

City Manager Larry Eulert commented that he didn’t like things in the budget that are “nebulous,” that are not sufficiently marked for anyone to know how funds would really be spent.

The city of Pawhuska published in the Journal-Capital on May 22 and May 29, in anticipation of the budget hearing, a summary of the proposed 2019-2020 budget. The summary, which ran in the newspaper as a legal advertisement, shows totals for various city departments but does not show year-to-year figures that would enable a reader to tell if expenses are anticipated to increase, decrease or remain the same.