As you might guess, here at the police department we are subject to many forces. Everyday we must respond to a variety of calls for service. We have cases to investigate from prior days, we have equipment upkeep, training, basic administration works of the kind that go on in most office settings too. It can be easy to be caught up in the day to day work and fail to stop and take stock of where we are, where we’ve been and where we are going.
For us, this is the time of year that we begin to take stock and think about the big picture for last year, this year and next year. Prior to beginning our budget process we evaluate our goals and objectives for the year. Initially the City Council and manager set some overall objectives for us and annually they give us a set of goals. Additionally we set some goals for ourselves regarding what we think we need to achieve. These goals are important in order to keep us on task and focused on meeting the needs of the community.
The other aspect of goal setting is that it helps us prepare for our budget process. The City has a requirement in ordinance of when the budget must be adopted by City Council (first meeting in November). And to meet that schedule there is a lot of preparation. In our department we prepare budgets at the division and sometimes the unit level to take input from as reasonably large a group of officers and command as possible. We start in May or June and evaluate our entire operation to determine what should be kept and what should be changed. Our personnel know what they need to get their jobs done but everything must be evaluated. And I like to know a lot of detail about what is needed and why. We can’t ask people to do the best possible job without giving them the proper tools and training. Of course that must be measured against the resources that we have available.
Once we have prepared a requested budget we meet with the city manager for his review. It is a time when we can discuss our goals and the dollars available to meet those goals. Ultimately it is his budget that is presented to City Council, usually in mid September. The City Council must hold at least one public hearing so the public has an opportunity to see what is being proposed–including the revenues available and to speak to the Council during the public hearing. It always surprises me that so few people come to those meetings (they are advertised) and weigh in. Quite a bit has been said about wanting governmental transparency but from my standpoint it has been there all along. No one bothers to take the time to pay attention.
It isn’t exciting but it matters.