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City Commission Seeks Ways to Involve Residents More in the Budget Process

An online survey and a series of community discussions will be used to encourage more citizen input in the city budget process.

The Largo City Commission considered new ways to get citizens involved in the city budget process at its Feb. 21 meeting.

This budget season residents will be able to fill out an electronic survey sharing what's important to them. The online survey will cover the city's business economy, community amenities, events that build community identity, infrastructure like roads and sewers, and security and safety in the city.

"What we are trying to do is to get valuable input to determine levels of service and what we should fund...in the past we have had participants rank (possible budget) reductions," said Amy Davis, Manager of the City's Office of Management and Budget.

Commissioner Robert Murray asked, what would prevent someone from answering the online survey multiple times?

Davis said, participants would need to request the surveys and only one survey would be sent per e-mail address.

Commissioner Woody Brown suggested including questions about specific programs and services the city is considering cutting. The city will update the survey based on the commission suggestions.

"I think this (survey) is a great answer to getting more input from a more diverse crowd," Brown said.

The city will also hold at least three round table discussions at the Largo Public Library to get resident input on the budget. This year's meeting will be open to anyone rather than by invitation only. The meetings will last 90-minutes instead of three to four hours. Food and child care will be provided, the city said.

The  tentative dates for the round table discussions are: Breakfast Meeting- March 27, Evening Meeting- March 29 and Lunch Meeting- April 4.

"I like the shorter meetings and the different times of day," said Mayor Patricia Gerard. "I want to know what residents are thinking. The input is important."

Last year during budget talks the major reductions were: the closing of a fire station, closing the library on Sundays, reducing positions in several city departments, eliminating downtown special events and not having pay increases for city personnel, according to a city budget summary.

The next budget year,  Fiscal Year 2013, starts Oct. 1.

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