Every time a city issue becomes a public issue, it’s inevitable that residents find something to complain about—a way to do things better or cheaper or not to do them at all; or to do something entirely different.

“Public budgeting can be complicated,” admits Mayor David Hagele in a video accompanying the survey. “That’s why this year we developed the interactive budget survey tool as part of our upcomidng two-year budget development process.”

The idea is to let the public try to manage the city budget, and see what they might cut to make room for other projects. It’s by no means a simple Yes or No, scale of 1-to-5 survey.

“The goal of the budget survey is to engage the public and get their feedback on city funding priorities,” said Katie Edgar, the city’s finance director. “The city budget is a key planning document, and the budget process is where funding decisions are made about what the city will do in future years.”

Hagele said, “These are your tax dollars, and this is your opportunity to share with the city how you would like to see them spent.”

BUDGET PLANNER The City of Healdsburg has an interactive Budget Simulation Tool on its website, in both Spanish and English, for public interaction with budget planning.

The city is seeking funding priorities for the upcoming 2-year budget, which will be evolved over the next four months. The target is a June 3 Budget Adoption date by the city council, following intermediate public meetings, goal settings, budget analysis and workshops.

The survey, which is available in both English and Spanish, asks optional general demographic information, but neither identifies nor keeps records of individual respondents. “This data will only be used to assure we capture perspectives from the entire community that will help us better understand the unique needs of different populations within our city,” Hagele said.

The online interactive survey can be found at healdsburg.gov/1111/Budget-Development.

The paper survey follows the Budget Simulation Tool, which enables users to play with the budget pluses and minuses like a desktop game, to balance spending and revenue to come out in the black. The paper surveys are available at City Hall (401 Grove St.) and the Community Center (1557 Healdsburg Ave.) in English and Spanish. They can be filled out and submitted on site.

The survey is open through the end of March. There are two options for the survey, a long version and a short one. “If you only have five minutes, you can take the short version of the survey. If you have more time, please take the full-length survey,” Edgar said.

The full version asks for feedback on seven spending categories and includes five specific questions. Spending categories are Community Services, Planning and Building, Housing and Homeless Support, Public Safety, Transportation and Mobility, and Utilities, Resources and Sustainability, as well as City Administration.

Revenue options include Sales Tax, Property Tax, Transient Occupancy Tax (Hotel TOT), Grants, and Other Sources, such as fees and permits, business licenses, charges for services or programs, and parking citations.

The survey also allows respondents to submit their own ideas, Edgar said.

“Results on the survey will be provided to the Council on April 15,” Edgar said. At that time, per city management rules, “the Council may direct staff to allocate funding based on what they are hearing in the community.”

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Christian Kallen has called Healdsburg home for over 30 years. A former travel writer and web producer, he has worked with Microsoft, Yahoo, MSNBC and other media companies, usually in an editorial capacity. He started reporting locally in 2008, moving from Patch to the Sonoma Index-Tribune to the Kenwood Press before joining the Healdsburg Tribune in 2022.



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