Covering municipal finance well can be a difficult task.
It often means sorting through hundred page budget documents, weeding through government and financial jargon and sitting through dozens of hours of sometimes painfully slow public hearings.
In the midst of all that, it is east to get lost in the weeds and forget the bigger picture — that behind every dollar spent by a city or state agency there is a taxpayer who has seen money taken from their wallet to fund that program.
And in many cases — whether its a local library or programs for the disabled — there are people who rely on those government services.
So I was excited to come across a piece published by The Arizona Republic today that did a nice job of showing the human effects of the shaving of $3.4 billion in spending from the state’s budget in the past four years.
Most of the cuts were lump-sum reductions. Rather than get into the nitty-gritty of myriad state programs, lawmakers left the details to state agencies. And those agencies responded to the smaller budgets in a variety of ways – from imposing fees on users to ending some services.
For some Arizona residents, the cuts have meant higher water rates, according to the article. For others, its meant the loss of state-sponsored parks programming, such as those previously offered along local hiking trails.
Overall, the article provides a good window into some of the effects of the creative budgeting that is happening all over the country during the current municipal financial crisis.