October 7, 2009
On Monday September 28, 2009 the Civic Federation attended the second of three public hearings held by DuPage County regarding its recently-released FY2010 financial plan. This was the first year that the County has held formal, separate public hearings throughout DuPage on its proposed budget. The hearings are part of a larger effort by the County to improve transparency and public participation in its annual budgeting process.
The phrase “public budget hearing” does not typically stir the emotions of the citizenry. However, the Federation believes, along with the Government Finance Officers Association and the National Advisory Council on State and Local Budgeting, that these hearings are a crucial piece of a proper local budgeting process. They provide the public with a formal opportunity to participate in the allocation of tax dollars and afford the government an opportunity to highlight its programs, goals and even successes.
The Federation encouraged DuPage County to implement a formal public hearing schedule for its budget approval process and we are pleased to see the County took our suggestion to heart. The County should be commended for holding organized and detailed hearings as counties in Illinois are not required to hold them, despite the benefits they provide to residents and governments alike.
The Civic Federation would like to see this fact changed. We urge the General Assembly to require all counties to hold at least one public hearing prior to approving the annual budget. Currently, state statutes require Cook County, municipalities with over 500,000 residents, and school districts residing in these cities to hold public hearings prior to passage of their budgets. We believe that all counties should be required to hold public budget hearings as a matter of transparent and open governance.