I have two questions:
Are tax dollars are being spent efficiently and effectively? We don’t ask you to pay taxes, we demand that you do, so elected officials better be sure we know where the money goes, whether city operations are as productive and economical as possible, and that we spend wisely for the long term. City staff are diligent about answering this question as they cut costs, streamline services, and adapt the budget to the shrinking tax base, unpredictable state aid, and increasing needs. I give Northfield a B (I’m a tough grader – I went to college when a C was an average grade).
How are tax dollars being used to implement the policy decisions made by the Council? Hmmm. I don’t know. I could give Northfield an F, but I think I am still optimistic enough to assign an Incomplete to this question.
In my budget utopia, the Comprehensive Plan would be the foundation of the budget with programs evaluated for their consistency with the Comp Plan and new initiatives derived from the Plan. After that, the other policies of the city (we’re part of the GreenStep Cities program, for example, and have a Comprehensive Economic Development Plan) would be used to guide spending.
Regular readers know that I think the vision and policies of the Comp Plan provide a framework for more compact, denser development which will be more cost effective in the long term (see, e.g. my post on an economically healthy Northfield, and follow up to a Strong Towns presentation). Because I think the fiscal health of Northfield as well as its sense of place, natural environment, and quality of life all can benefit from attention to the Comp Plan, I am frustrated by my own inability to help turn the budget conversation around to address the long term, more taxpayers per acre, less car-dependent vision. I give myself a D+ for this quarter.