Neighborhood Council activities and plans

In an e-mail from the Neighborhood Council of St. Augustine, Inc., to the various Neighborhood Associations, Historic City News was updated on recent activities and future plans for the Council.

Dear Neighborhood Council Members/Neighbors,

Thank you for your input on the proposed utility fee and property tax millage rate increases.

The Neighborhood Council attended the City Commission meeting last Thursday night September 18, 2008 and represented the views of those who responded to our emails and inquiries.

Although it was too late at this point of the process to change the budget, both City Staff and members of the City Commission recognized that its supposedly open and participatory budget process was neither, and that the only allowed formal opportunity for public comment was after the budget was finalized. Commission Crichlow suggested that significant improvements be made to next year’s process.

We offered that the Neighborhood Council could host evening meetings for residents to hear how the City’s Budget process takes place, ask questions, and have input. Both Mark Litzinger and Tim Birchfield, who are the City Comptrollers, agreed that it would be an excellent way for the City staff to be able to get out into the community and have productive two way dialogs with it’s residents.

Since we all want the City to serve us in the best possible way, it is best to establish the Neighborhood Council as a source for dialog with the City Staff and the City Commission. Our meetings with staff and last night’s meeting reignited the process the Neighborhood Council has been working on from the start, which is to serve a useful purpose as a conduit between the residents and their City government.

Over the next year the Neighborhood Council will be hosting meetings with the City for our residents that will allow us a forum to share our ideas about the City’s priorities both for services to be provided and the funding for these services. The City’s decisions about these priorities will hopefully drive the City’s budget and the future tax and fee rates that we pay as well as the services that we receive. It is our hope that by facilitating this two-way dialog that the Neighborhood Council will help our neighborhoods, and city as a whole, come to an understanding of the balance of taxes, fees and services that we want.

The Neighborhood Council looks forward to working with your Neighborhood Associations to ensure that each of our neighborhoods has a place at the table and that our city receives the input that they need to make decisions that represent our priorities. We encourage each of you to take this opportunity to become actively involved with helping to set these priorities.

The Neighborhood Council will work on sponsoring the first of these evening events to learn about the City Budget this fall, and will let you know when it will be. We hope everyone will take this opportunity to become actively involved with learning about next year’s budget process, which will affect our property taxes and utility fees in the future.

Thank you for your interest in something that has an impact on all of us that live in the City.

The Neighborhood Council

If you are a resident in the City of St. Augustine and interested in the activities of the Council and the Neighborhood Associations, you may contact The Neighborhood Council Coordinator, Cathy DuPont by calling 904-825-1053 between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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