Budgeting is never an easy process whether running a household or a small city. Expenses are difficult to reconcile with revenues.

And so it is with the city of Moscow’s fiscal 2020 budget, which is up for public discussion tonight at the regular 7 p.m. City Council meeting at City Hall.

The balanced budget is setting a milestone for the city. At $101.4 million, which includes the $9.4 million bond for the new police station, it is the largest one-year city budget to date.

The budget comes about after hundreds of hours and due diligence by city staff and others throughout the year. The process ramps up in earnest in March when department spending plans are developed, submitted, reviewed, tweaked, resubmitted, and sent through public workshops and hearings.

Generally, the spending plan is fully vetted and few surprises lurk in the recesses of the 254-page document. It’s a monster of get through but all the ‘I’s are dotted and ‘T’s crossed.

The document also provides charts and graphs to help explain expenses and revenues. Property taxes only account for 7.26 percent of income. Franchise fees for utilities and cable providers, actually paid by subscribers as part of their monthly bills, account for 1.3 percent. Services provided by the city generate 24.9 percent of revenue or about $25.3 million.

Likewise, the city’s general government will cost about $8.3 million and public safety will run $8.6 million. Parks and recreation will use $3.4 million. The list goes on.

According to 2018 city figures, the city employs 220 full- and part-time people making it the fourth largest employer in Latah County behind the University of Idaho (4,740), Gritman Medical Center (440), and Moscow School District (330).

Too often, it seems budgets are developed and passed with little public opposition or question.

This year, the police chief budgeted funding for a drug-sniffing dog. That didn’t pass the smell test with numerous residents who felt such a police measure would be unnecessary. The chief withdrew the line item and probably will try again next year.

A $45,000 parking study is also included in the budget and should be removed as the editorial board stated in a July 29 editorial.

No doubt there are many more budget items some folks don’t agree with.

Moscow is a city with 25,322 residents. Are the amenities and services provided by the city too much for its size? Are Moscow residents best served by the $101.4 million the city will spent starting Oct. 1?

If you have similar thoughts, the time to say something is nigh. The budget is not a done deal yet. However, after the public hearing, the council is scheduled to vote on accepting the budget.

The fiscal 2021 process will begin in March – follow it closely.

To see a PDF of the budget go to this shortened web address: http://bit.ly/2Kn0rBI

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