As he sees it, some of Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender’s recommendations for the 2018 budget year were sabotaged by emotional appeals.
In response, he wants to build a shield of data to protect against future attacks.
While saying "emotion makes terrible public policy,” Allender unveiled a public survey Monday at the City/School Administration Center. The survey will be available online at rcgov.org and will also be mailed to 3,000 randomly selected Rapid City residents, with an equal number of surveys going to each of the city’s five wards. The deadline to respond to the survey is Dec. 22.
Allender hopes the survey results will equip and embolden city council members to make difficult budget cuts. Some of Allender’s proposed cuts for the 2018 budget — including eliminations or reductions in subsidies for various community organizations — were rebuked after the council heard testimony from members of the affected groups.
That complicated Allender’s effort to phase-in a priority-based budgeting system, which he plans to fully implement in 2019.
“There is some expectation that city funds will be made available to organizations for eternity,” Allender said Monday, “and that really runs afoul of the priority process.”
The anonymous survey was written by Allender’s budget analyst, Sean Kurbanov. The survey consists of 14 questions and takes an estimated 10-15 minutes to complete.
Although city officials do not anticipate many online responses from people outside of the city, the city's communications coordinator, Darrell Shoemaker, said the city’s information technology staff is prepared to weed out any of those responses, as well as duplicate responses.
Among other things, the survey will ask voters to divvy up a hypothetical $1,000 of tax revenue among various city services; to rank the seven goals in the city's comprehensive plan from most to least important; and to say whether the city council should maintain services with increased fees and taxes, or consider reducing services or privatizing them.
The responses will be tabulated and presented to the council for use during the formulation of the 2019 city budget.
"I feel that when the council members get pressured to fund a particular item, I feel like they may have a lack of information to fall back on," Allender said, adding that he hopes the survey will help fill that void.
The council members have already been given the survey, and their responses will be included in the data.
For more information on the survey, contact the Rapid City Mayor's Office by phone at 721-2457 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.