Quincy News

City's budget simulator to be unveiled Wednesday at community workshop

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jan. 21, 2020 12:01 am Updated: Jan. 21, 2020 11:30 am

QUINCY -- City Treasurer Linda Moore is optimistic that the city's new budget simulator, which will be presented to the public for the first time at a forum on Wednesday, will help educate and inform the public about how the city accounts for "each cent of taxpayers' money."

"I really think that most people don't have a clue as to how the city budget actually works," Moore said. "I am hoping this simulator will change that by educating them by having them answer very real world questions on how the city uses tax dollars to fund services."

The budget simulator, which is known as Balancing Act, will be presented during a one-hour community workshop entitled Public Finance and Balancing the City Budget. This workshop will be held at 6 p.m. at Mercantile Bank, 200 North 33rd Street. The workshop is free and open to the public. No reservations are needed. Though attendees are encouraged to bring their smartphone, tablet or laptop to the workshop.

Moore said she first learned about the simulator after reading an article in an industry magazine chronicling how Kansas City, Mo., had used the simulator to get feedback from its residents after city officials had learned the city was facing a multi-million deficit. Nearby Dubuque, Iowa, also uses the budget simulator.

"They got better feedback from the simulator than they did on anything else," Moore said. Because residents took the time to not only show how they would make hypothetical cuts to municipal departments or raise taxes, Kansas City officials were also able to feel like they had more "thoughtful, engaging, and meaningful feedback," according to Moore.

While Dubuque was able to use the feedback to help garner support for tax increases and public infrastructure initiatives.

Moore is hoping to replicate that with the budget simulator here in Quincy, where she said the budget simulator will present a very real scenario where Quincy is facing flat sales tax revenue and increasingly costly obligations such as public safety pension programs for police and fire.

"They will be asked how they think the cannabis tax should be used," Moore said. Participants will be able to answer that question and others in the comments section of the simulator.

In addition the simulator will also prepare a taxpayer receipt for participants who anonymously input their basic data in order to generate the receipt.

"That was the real eye opener for me, because now residents can see exactly how much of their tax bill goes to things like the library, the police department, the fire department, central services, capital improvements, and other departments," Moore said.

Ultimately, Moore said she is hoping that between 800 to 1,000 Quincy residents will use the budget simulator, which will soon be posted onto the city's website and will be the focus of several more community workshops in the coming months.

Moore said the feedback from participants will help city officials identify priorities for future city budgets.

The city is paying $5,850 for a one-year license to use Balancing Act.