City of Nacogdoches Launches People's Budget Game
Since the main role of a local government is to provide integral services to citizens who live inside the city limits, it is important to fully execute city operations by utilizing limited funding and maintaining a balanced budget. In order to adequately provide services such as sanitation, water service, and public safety, it is important each department has appropriate funding resources. I personally am always impressed at the level of customer service City of Nacogdoches provides – as every department is working on a shoestring budget.
However, it is equally important to educate the public on the amount of funds available and allow you, the taxpayers to provide us input. This is why I’m so excited to announce the “People’s Budget”. This game-like platform allows users to be “mayor for a day” and will harness the power of the people to help get information from the citizens of Nacogdoches.
When playing, users can assign blueberries (way more fun than dollars) to each department, and also take quick polls about various departments to consider the implications of over or under funding a certain city service. At the end, users are asked to take a survey and we will utilize that information to send a follow up about how others in the community shaped their budgets.
City budgets can be complicated and ours is a lengthy process which welcomes citizen input. This game helps simplify the process and allow users to formulate their own balanced budget for our community, while also educating citizens on the many, many services City of Nacogdoches employees provide. Results from the game will be shared with the community, city staff, and elected officials.
We must recognize our community is diverse and those currently active in the local government process are most often interested in special projects or certain areas of our community. This passion is a wonderful aspect of the civic engagement process—one that we encourage. Additionally, we must also balance the needs and the wants of the community and each special interest group throughout the budget’s development. Although this simulation will allow users to provide us input on special interest areas, the City Council will approve a final budget based on the overall needs of the community. Input is generated in multiples ways and this great new tool is one element of a complicated annual puzzle.
Currently, City staff breaks down the budget process during City Council meetings—where public input is always welcomed and this game is a first step in a multi-week series to educate citizens about city budgets and the services it must fund. It is our long-term hope that everyone will understand the development of our budget and feel more comfortable engaging in the process as we build it each year. So, we hope you consider taking 10-15 minutes of your time to learn about what the City of Nacogdoches does and provide us some awesome crowd-sourced information. This tool is wonderful for children, families, and individuals who just want to know more about their community. The People’s Budget can be accessed at: https://nacogdoches.peoplesbudget.com/
Amy Mehaffey began her work with the City of Nacogdoches in July 2015. Prior to this, she worked as a 4-H Specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. In this role she did marketing and promotion for the Texas 4-H Youth Development Program and served as the event coordinator for Texas 4-H Roundup, the agency’s largest event. Amy graduated in May 2015 with her PhD in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Sciences with an emphasis in youth development. During the pursuit of this degree she also received a certificate in Prevention Science and a Certificate in Non-Profit Management from the Bush School of Government and Public Service. Previously, she completed a Master’s of Science in Agricultural Communications at Texas A&M University and a Bachelor’s of Science in the same field at Texas Tech University. Amy is also a freelance photographer and enjoys Texas A&M football in the fall. She is married to John Michael Mehaffey who is a professor of Animal Science at Stephen F. Austin State University. They are proud parents to Hattie Mae Mehaffey, born September 1, 2016 and are expecting another, Hunter Leigh Mehaffey in July 2018.