Each year about this time we start finalizing the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on October 1. City staff and council start working on this budget in the spring, and by law we have to agree upon and approve the budget by the end of September.
Throughout the year, we receive hundreds of suggestions on how that money should be spent and what projects should be undertaken. One of the difficulties in responding to this broad and often conflicting spectrum of inquiries and ideas is that our budget is finite.
The budget currently before council proposes a general fund budget of 10.8 million dollars for 2014-15. That sounds like a lot of money (and it is) but it is by no means limitless. As much as I enjoy hearing new ideas and potential solutions, there is usually something missing from those conversations – the funding source.
When proposing a plan, a suggestion of how to pay for that plan should be included. New buildings, facilities maintenance, sidewalks, streetlights, vehicles, drainage systems and employees require cash. With a limited supply, we have to prioritize how to spend our funds. This often requires tough choices, such as choosing between road resurfacing or waste water system replacement. Do we want to improve the recreation center or the senior center? Do we want sidewalks refurbished or beach pavilions replaced?
The answer is that we want all of these things, and it is council’s job to balance these needs and wants through how we direct the budget process. Our diverse community has diverse desires, and we strive to be respectful and realistic in addressing them.
When bringing an idea forward, please consider where the money should come from to pay for implementation, and even what your role as a citizen will be within that project. Gulfport is, in a way, one big 12,800 person household that must live within its means. If you have an idea we want to hear it, but we also want to know your practical thoughts on how we should pay for it with consideration to the needs of all our residents.