Junction City, Kan. Holds Two Roundtables on Budget Instability
Junction City, Kan. held two Community Values Roundtables on June 1 and 2, 2011 to discuss the city's issue of budget instability. The city is nearing a declining statutory debt limit and is facing a serious crisis. Over 150 participants attended the roundtables to discuss this pressing issue. Those present at the roundtables included local citizens, Junction City Commissioners, Geary County Commissioners, city staff, and individuals from neighboring communities. The majority of the participants had a personal stake in Junction City. Many citizens have lived there for over 20 years.
The Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy (ICDD), in conjunction with Junction City, conducted the roundtable discussions. The ultimate goal of the roundtables was to provide citizens with the opportunity to weigh in on the serious budget deliberations. ICDD hoped the discussions bridged the gap between citizens and county commissioners.
"The discussions provided the citizens the opportunity to discuss, brainstorm, and provide ideas in a participative yet non-confrontational manner," said Gerry Vernon, Junction City Manager, "This was important because the 2012 budget represented the highest hurdle to the city and its taxpayers due to the largest debt payment that is scheduled next year."
Before each discussion, Vernon led a budget presentation to help participants understand foundational information they could use in their discussions. After deliberating over the best ways to spend public dollars, the question was asked why individuals like living in Junction City. Many responded that they enjoyed the location, small town feel, the people, and the safe environment. To conclude the discussions, citizens were able to give suggestions and ideas to city commissioners for further solutions regarding the budget crisis.
The most apparent solutions that were revealed in the discussions were prioritization of services, reduction of government, and an increase in user fees to cover debt payments. These items will go before the commission for consideration over the next couple of months as 2012 approaches.
Overall, citizens said they enjoyed the roundtable discussions because of its transparency, citizen involvement, and relevance on a tough issue.
"I attended the roundtable discussion and thought that the event was well organized, fair, and easy to understand," said one participant.