Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Can Priority Based Budgeting Reveal the Common Ground Among Our Elected Officials?

Grand Island mayoral candidates discuss budget issues News 5: Coverage You Can Count On Local News

The Mayoral race in Grand Island pits two candidates against each other, each opposed to the other on the issue of taxes. Yet, as the article captures below, they both agree on one point: "Prioritization is the key."

This begs the question - can Priority Based Budgeting be a unifying common ground for our elected officials? Can the focus on Prioritization usurp the discussion of politics as usual. It seems Prioritization has the potential to be a unifying conversation, even in these times when budget discussions have been so divisive. We'd love to hear your thoughts and perspectives on this topic!

Anthony Pura
Story Created: Nov 1, 2010 at 9:46 PM CDT
(Story Updated: Nov 1, 2010 at 10:19 PM CDT )

As we mentioned, the Grand Island Mayoral race is getting a lot of attention – two men are vying for your votes to be mayor.

News Five's Anthony Pura talked budget, taxes and public safety with the men who say they're the right person for the job.

Both candidates said having a balanced budget that works will be their top priority in office. Both candidates said prioritization will be the key, but one said he won't stand for hiking taxes, the other just can't rule that out.

It's no secret the city's pockets aren't as deep these days digging itself into a giant fiscal hole over the past 8 years.

"it was easy for us to say we overspent by a million or two million dollars we'll just take it out of the cash reserve," said Bob Meyer.

Mayoral candidate Bob Meyer saw it happen from his chair on the city council.

"I'll take responsibility for that because I was the one that was voting yes or no and most of mine was yes," said Meyer.

But now, he said he knows better singing a conservative tune when it comes to spending.

This year he and other city council members helped trim close to 2 and half million dollars from the city's budget to keep city operations going.

Now he said he can better help Grand Island's cash conundrum as head of the city.

"I don't see a plan for us to put money aside for fire trucks and road graders police cars, what we do when we need to replace something we come to the council and say hey we need a new fire truck or we need a new motor grader," said Meyer.

His opponent, former Grand Island mayor Jay Vavricek is also preaching responsible spending.

"Government is always about priority, what priority what services you want to provide at what cost," said Vavricek.

Cost being the bottom line to voters Vavricek has made himself the anti–tax candidate.

"I've been asked several times by several people and I don't support higher property taxes. The council will weigh in or this, that's 10 members but as mayor you hold a veto, you hold the authority to nullify that so its my goal going in that we'll have services that will be efficient and will do without raising taxes," said Vavricek.

Meyer, on the other hand, also opposes taxes but won't scratch it out as a last resort.

"Control would come first, but coming down the road, we have no idea what emergencies will come up, what kind of problem we're going to have. It maybe necessary for us to raise taxes for a year or two but I'm a firm believer once those taxes aren't needed, they come off," Meyer said.

Tax policies set Vavricek and Meyer apart slightly, but when it comes to public safety, they're on the same page, both want to see more officers on the street.

"We have a very bad and strong drug problem here in Grand Island and I don't feel that we can slow that down unless we can make sure the presence is on the street," Meyer said.

"You get in the squad car about 2:00 in the morning and see what our police encounters, you'd be surprised. It shows a lot of the different deployment it encounters will have more than 1 or 2 or 3 officers, and that really diminishes your opportunity to have a safe community," said Vavricek.

But how quickly new officers will come, another difference in opinion.

Vavricek says it could be possible next fiscal year.

But Meyer said new officers will be dependent on when the city has the funds.

"I wish I had an answer for you but I don't know. I would say that maybe 3 or 4 years down the road, we'd have a good idea to determine where we stand," said Meyer.

And as they've spent months letting voters know where they stand...
Tomorrow night voters will let them know which stance they like best.
Both candidates optimistic they will lead Grand Island for the next four years.

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