Budgeting is at the heart of how a community/board/public body/organization decides its priorities, allocates its resources, and builds its future. As the entity responsible for safeguarding our county’s financial health, the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners recognizes the critical importance of making these decisions with the utmost responsibility, transparency, and foresight.
However, we’ve noticed a disconnect and many of our fellow citizens may not fully understand how the budgeting process works and why certain decisions are made. It’s not just an issue of clarity; it’s a question of community involvement and equitable allocation of resources.
The principle the new Ottawa County Board of Commissioners introduced was that of Zero-Based Budgeting (ZBB). Traditional budgeting methods often start by looking at last year’s budget and making incremental adjustments. While this approach may be expedient, it doesn’t always reflect the current needs, possibilities, or challenges that our community faces.
We’ve experienced dramatic shifts in the past few years, including the impacts of COVID-19, which have rendered some of our previous assumptions obsolete. In essence, Zero-Based Budgeting means that every function in our budget starts from a “zero base,” and every expenditure must be justified anew. This approach allows us to critically examine what services are needed, the effectiveness of services provided to residents, and whether they align with our current priorities.
We recognize that effective budgeting is not merely a financial exercise; it’s a social one that requires comprehensive data and community input.
I have requested information on services requested and services rendered, not just to scrutinize expenses, but to gain a clearer understanding of the community’s actual needs. This data is crucial as it helps us see where we need to focus our resources, especially in areas that may have been overlooked or underestimated.
The current Board of Commissioners challenged the status quo. For a budget to serve its purpose effectively, it must be a living, breathing document that adapts to our changing circumstances. Public forums, community surveys, and open dialogue sessions were organized to discuss our budget proposals, including the implementation of Zero-Based Budgeting. Your perspectives are invaluable in ensuring that we responsibly assign dollars to needs, rather than to outdated practices or assumptions.
By embarking on this journey of financial introspection and public engagement, we aim to create budgets that reflect the will of our community—budgets that account for the evolving dynamics and challenges we face today, and that set the stage for a prosperous future for all.
Thank you for your attention, partnership, and commitment to making our county a better place to live, work, and thrive.