Des Moines City Leaders Seeking Public’s Input on Budget Allocations

DES MOINES, Iowa -- “So if people are frustrated, get out and say the word,” laughs Tania Hunt.

When it comes to money everyone has an opinion on how it should be spent.

“Finding out that certain things were done that I didn`t think were necessary is the biggest drive that brings me here,” says Hunt.

The city's budget is no different.

On Tuesday, a handful of residents are speaking up and suggesting how Iowa’s capital city might perform some of its most critical tasks, like public safety which makes up more than 60 percent of the city’s budget.

Hunt who has lived on the east side of Des Moines for more than 20 years says, “I personally feel we are not adequately staffed on the East Side with a fire station. We have one fire station that runs the Northeast and the East side at Hubble Avenue  and Easton Boulevard.”

In an effort to consider ideas like Hunt’s, city leaders are seeking feedback from residents in a new way by using social media. Through an app, residents can cast their vote on the specific issues they feel are areas of high importance. The results are shown in real-time during the meeting in front the Mayor, members of the council and both fire and police chiefs.

“We understand their priorities. We have the budget side and we have the wish and dream side. How do you mix both of those and make sure we keep trying to charge ahead?” says Mayor Frank Cownie.

Fire Chief John TeKippe and Police Chief Dana Wingert present what their departments are spending their money on but gave residents alternative solutions of how that money could be spent instead.

The majority of community members say they want more fire department staffing and increased neighborhood policing.

Officials say this approach help residents get involved and better understand the budget but also helps the city know what’s important to its residents. Mayor Cownie says all the suggestions will be presented to city council.

“We will take that information back and have our budget people give us a reasonable projection to meet citizens needs and wants and dreams yet doing it a fiscally responsible way.”

A budget survey is available on the city's website for those not able to attend the meeting.

The next workshop will be held on Nov. 9 addressing engineering, public works, and community development budgets.