You are the owner of this article.

City Council reviews impact of Balancing Act

City Council

City Council met on Monday to review data collected from Balancing Act, an online program designed to connect the public with city government finances. 

Stillwater citizens can interact easier with local government and get a clearer understanding on where their money goes through the online software program called Balancing Act.

The online program informs residents where money in government is used. Meagan Kascsak, the city communications coordinator, said a survey from the City of Stillwater revealed only 54 percent of residents knew where their tax money went.

The City Council and the 30 people who attended the city council meeting heard Kascsak discuss the findings from the users of Balancing Act. Kascsak spoke for ten minutes on the report.

“Since the beginning of this year, we’ve been actively promoting it and trying to encourage people to sign up to just play with it and to learn a little bit about their city budget and submit what they would like to see in the FY20 budget,” Kascsak said. “Right now we’ve had 163 budget simulations.”

Mayor Will Joyce supported Balancing Act and said it was a wonderful tool.

“It gives you a real clear picture on where your tax money goes in Stillwater and gives you an opportunity to play with the budget on your own,” Joyce said. “You can see the same exercise we go through to try to figure out where do we get the money to pay for things.”

Joyce made the room laugh when he commented on how few residents attend in-person fairs on tax money. Balancing Act is able to get more responses.

Patti Osmus, assistant to the city manager, said people seeing what government does will be beneficial to the community.

“It would be very helpful for (Stillwater residents) to get in and see what all the city has to deal with,” Osmus said.

From the 163 budget simulations submitted, sales tax was both the top revenue increased and decreased. Based on the averages of only increases, sales tax had an average increase of $861,154. The averages of decreasesshowed sales tax had an average decrease of $122,839.

The category for top expense increased was streets, stormwater and grounds maintenance with an average of $935,976. The top expense decreased was in the police category with an average of $899,200.

Submissions will remain open until March 30. The program will be used in the future. Kascsak said more subcategories will be added to the expenses and revenue categories in the future.

Norman McNickle, the city manager, said he thinks the more comfortable people get, the more they will understand Stillwater’s limited budget.

“I think they will see the reason that you have bumpy streets or the reason that something may not get fixed as quickly as they would like to see it get fixed is the fact that our revenue is limited,” McNickle said.