Metro Council members are rallying behind a Plan of Government committee recommendation giving the council an additional 30 days to review the mayor’s executive annual budget.
Currently, the council receives the budget on Nov. 5 and must adopt it by Dec. 15. But under the new proposal, the 11 council members would receive the budget on Oct. 15, with a Dec. 31 deadline to adopt it. The mayor’s office would also need to include a council budget officer in budget meetings.
“It’s never been enough time,” says Donna Collins-Lewis, who chaired the Plan of Government committee. “Usually, we get it right before the holidays, so we’ve never really delved into it.”
The proposed changes would also give the council—which has only amended the executive budget once in the past 12 years—more of a say in the budget process. It’s one of the only committee recommendations with which Chauna Banks says she agrees.
“We all have special areas of the budget that may affect our districts, projects or office operations differently,” Banks says in a text message. “I would like the budget to be a plan that the Metro Council is a part of—not just from attending a budget hearing, but discussing the mechanics of budget structuring.”
Barbara Frieberg, who helped draft the recommendation, says the 30-day extension reflects a compromise between the drafting committee and the city-parish finance department, which was more hesitant to move up the budget submission date. Moreover, Lamont Cole says the council has budget briefings “in a timely manner” under the Broome administration.
But Matt Watson says the proposed extension would allow the council to better perform its core legislative function—a sentiment echoed by Trae Welch, who adds while much of the budget consists of dedicated funds, the window to deliberate potentially significant expenditures is narrow.
“I’d like to see a more collaborative relationship when it comes to where the priorities are,” Welch says. “It would help us give more input.”
Mayor Sharon Weston Broome also supports the proposal, says spokesman Mark Armstrong.
Councilmembers Erika Green, Scott Wilson, Denise Amoroso and Dwight Hudson did not return calls seeking comment.
At its meeting Aug. 14, the Metro Council will listen to public input on proposed amendments for Sections 1-4 of the Plan of Government. The remaining chapters will be discussed at the council’s Aug. 28 and Sept. 11 meetings.