Only five members of the public attended the Killeen budget forum at City Hall on Wednesday, leaving some city officials disappointed in the first stage of planning for an uncertain fiscal year.
The 6 p.m. meeting was the first of several public input gathering sessions, planned for city officials to learn how the city should spend its money in fiscal year 2013-14, which begins Oct. 1.
Mayor Dan Corbin said low civic involvement is an unfortunate trend across the nation.
“I think that many of our citizens would rather complain about the results than participate in the process. I don’t think that is unique to Killeen. It exists at all levels of government,” Corbin said.
Corbin said the city will continue to have public hearings on the budget, regardless of attendance.
Killeen, a city with close economic ties to Fort Hood, faces a difficult budget calculus this year with many fiscal uncertainties looming, including the unknown impact of sequestration and possible base closure and realignment commission action.
City Manager Glenn Morrison said he hopes that by the time he delivers his draft of the budget to the council July 9, the city will have better economic projections.
“The uncertainty surrounding Fort Hood — what sequestration could mean, what a pending BRAC could mean — are things we will have to pay attention to,” Morrison said.
“We need to be aware and conservative in our approach to planning and make sure that the decisions we make are done thoughtfully and allow flexibility if changes occur.”
Among the major items for consideration are funding the construction of Fire Station No. 9 and the Trimmier Road Expansion project, both of which the city has already funded for design and engineering.
“What comes behind design is construction,” Morrison said. “Whether that is a fiscal year 2013-14 item or a fiscal year 2014-15 item remains to be seen.”
Although few attended the meeting in person, Morrison said some residents took advantage of the city email created solely for budget comments and suggestions — firstname.lastname@example.org.
Morrison said one resident requested that the city incorporate more fuel-efficient and eco-friendly vehicles into its 1,000-vehicle motor pool.
“I think that person is dead on,” Morrison said. “If we are going to shape up our fleet, we need to ensure that it is an efficient fleet as well.”