The Keizer City Council and the Budget Committee have some tough decisions to make as the city’s annual budget is planned for 2010-11.

Just as tough as making the budget numbers work will be facing concerned, even angry, citizens who don’t want a police officer cut.  They also want to know how the city got into the financial pickle it is facing.

The Keizer residents who testify before the Budget Committee and the city council will want to be heard as they plead to save the budget items that are important to them.  The sense in Keizer is that everything should be done to keep the police deparmtent intact.

Police Chief H. Marc Adams spoke before the Keizer Rotary Club recently.  He told club members of the number of calls officers make each week, ranging from violent crimes to vandalism to property crimes.  He reminded the club that Keizer sits on the Interstate 5 drug route that runs from Mexico to Canada.  Fighting drugs is where the police department spends a lot of manpower and resources.

The fight against drugs is important but residents also want to be sure that a patrol car pulls up shortly after a 9-1-1 call.  It doesn’t matter if someone calls because of a noise, a suspicious person or an actual crime, Keizerites want the security a full-staffed police department offers.

That is why the council and the budget committee are facing a thankless job in May and June as they finalize the new fiscal year’s budget.

The budgeting process this year needs to include the city manager and the city council explaining the choices that need to be made.  Keizerites are a reasonable people and they will understand when the facts are laid in front of them.

One of the things people may not understand is how a city that has been touted as “pay as we go” finds itself in such a fiscal predicament.  They may not understand why Keizer city employees are not facing pay freezes, pay cuts or furlough days when many in the private and public sectors throughout the country have had to face.

Seventy-five percent of the city budget is earmarked for public safety (i.e., police), as it should.  Taxpayers and residents routinely rate public safety as one of the top issues in Keizer.  The budget committee and the city council need to listen to those testifying during the process.  Not everyone who is passionate about the city spending will testify during hearings on the budget; they will express their opinions to friends and neighbors.

To make the hearings go as smoothly as possible the council should enforce its own rule and limit a person’s testimony to the three minutes as stated in council rules.  More people will be able to testify and the hearings will move along.  Questions of residents should also be limited and comments about the pros or cons of an issue should be excised.

The budget process is a public process between the city council and the citizens they serve.  Let the people have their say, then clearly explain the reasons for the final council decisions.

—LAZ