City Budget: Can We Talk? 

For cities, developing a budget is a little like visiting a shrink. There lies Boise, Idaho's largest city, spilling its guts out about its problems, its hopes and its dreams. The therapy is expensive--the city is planning a $427 million budget for fiscal year 2007, part of a two-year budgeting process--but the alternative, if you read the fine print, could be worse.

When individual city departments submit their budget requests, they list, in simple form, their "strengths," "weaknesses," "opportunities," and "threats," or SWOT, if you like acronyms. Judging by the submissions from various Boise City agencies, times are still tough down at City Hall.

The budget was up for a public hearing Tuesday, after BW went to press. But, judging from the paucity of public input on the plan, the Boise City Council was likely, city staff said, to approve the budget.

In so doing they'll give aid to agencies, but if the SWOT statements are any indication, they'll have lots left to do. Take the city's legal department, for example. According to the statements provided by the Boise City Attorney's office, the city's attorneys and legal staff are paid lower than their counterparts in state and local government.

Over at the planning and development department, budget planners fretted that the city had no economic development plan. And although infill development is an inevitability in a city with a busy downtown, nobody seems to like it. It's a darker picture still at the Finance and Administration department, where the terse statement notes a "tendency for government entities not to play well together."

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