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What Would You Pay For?

by Melissa Brunner

When our governing bodies start talking budgets, many people tend to hit snooze. All those numbers, all that talking - how boring! A few months down the road, you get your property tax bill or hit the local swimming pool where you always took the kids, and you get a surprise - those taxes went up and that pool is no longer open. And wait - what do you mean we have a dozen fewer officers on the streets than what we thought and that great nonprofit organization had to close?

Rather than let your eyes glaze over, you should open them wide and take time to communicate with your public officials about what your priorities are. Your priorities - the priorities of the public - should be their priorities as well. It is a balancing act, for sure. Consider the comments from Topeka City Council members at this week's meeting. On one hand, council members said constiuents told them they wanted to boost public safety and fix streets and sidewalks. On the other hand, council members said constiutents told them they didn't want to see taxes go up. Of course, both are true! We want all of those great things, but we don't want to pay more.

Or do we? Toward what areas are you willing to pay in a little more? And if you say we could put money toward those areas by cutting rather than paying, where would you cut? Keep in mind, people also tend to get upset if the city, county or state announce job layoffs, too.

I don't have any easy answers, but I believe if the public is involved and our public officials communicate, we can come up with the best compromises possible.

In Topeka, find your City Council representative at www.topeka.org. In Shawnee County, find your commissioner at www.snco.us.

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