"I attended last night’s (11/10) budget sessions and wanted to relay my disgust about what these hearings have deteriorated into.
"The presentations given by each department head would have been better suited for an 'Inside Allentown (government)' course than for a budget hearing. Those in attendance were treated to city administrators reading aloud from lengthy PowerPoint slides. Instead of focusing on the actual budget for each department, the presentations focused on anything but the dollars and cents of running city government.
"At best the budget hearings have become opportunities for political grandstanding by department heads. At worst the lengthy PowerPoint presentations have become ways for the administration to filibuster the meeting and limit public input. These lengthy presentations were certainly not appropriate given the limited amount of time allotted to each department to discuss their budget.
"I freely admit that I left some time after 10:00 pm when the finance director began his presentation of what the finance department does. I was not alone in leaving before the meeting ended.
"In addition to the issue of the presentations, I must question the wisdom of scheduling two budget sessions back-to-back on the same evening. Similarly, I can only wonder about the intent of scheduling the discussion on the “Revenue” section of the budget at the end of the second session. Surely neither decision did anything to promote public input on an area that needs scrutiny.
"As you know, the administration has greatly overstated revenues over the past two years and those overstatements have resulted in deficits. Additionally, the 2011 budget is balanced by a proposal for an earned income tax increase that is directly at odds with the city charter. Given these facts, one would have hoped that the revenue section would be discussed before any other sections of the budget were reviewed.
"As a Certified Public Accountant, I think it makes more sense to first discuss how much money you actually have before you decide how much you will be spending. Last night’s meeting did just the opposite, and is perhaps an indication of why the city is in the financial situation it is in.
"I would hope that City Council shares the concerns of many about the legality of the proposed tax hike; the effects of a tax hike on city businesses; and would like to find ways to avoid the tax increase. If those concerns and the prospect of having the 2011 city budget being balanced on the backs of working families were important to City Council, it was certainly not evident by the low priority it was given on last night’s agenda."