If we look at the city as a co-op business in which we are all investors, understanding the role of government becomes clearer. Our taxes are the money we are willing to give to save money by getting a group rate for contracted services. If we have to hire a plumber to come look at our water lines and they charge $100 just for coming out and then $125/hour after that, why not join with our neighbors so that we only pay one time for the initial consult fee and can split up the hourly charge? Great! So we do that, but we’re calling the plumber 3 or 4 times a week, and we realize we could save even more if we don’t hire an outside company that charges the consult fee but rather, we have our own company. This is where our city is at on many services.
Our city publishes its budget every year (2017 Budget). By looking at the “Enterprise Funds” listed in the budget, we can easily see what services Kaysville City has taken on through city owned services. Water, Sewer, Electric, Pressure Irrigation, Sanitation, Storm Water and Ambulance all fall into this category. The city has cut out the middle man and regulates these necessary functions. As the budget is arranged, these items should be self-funding through fees and revenue. If there is excess revenue being generated within these entities, it becomes incumbent upon city leaders to assess if too much is being charged to the citizens or if the excess can and should be used for other city functions.
Outside of these ‘enterprise’ entities, Kaysville City also has a myriad of general governmental functions that are funded through tax revenue. These include Administration, Parks& Recreation, Community Development, Public Works (which crosses boundaries with the enterprise fund due to its oversight of water administration), Police and Fire. While some of these functions are viewed as essential to a successful city, others allow for areas of question in how funds are distributed. Each area has a department head that reports to the City Manager. The City Manager then reports to the City Council. It is through these department heads that the needs within the city are assessed and a tentative budget is put forth.
The final budget must be approved by the city council. The city council is, essentially, the board of directors for our co-op. In the Utah Municipal Code, different forms of municipal government are outlined. Through use of the Five Member Council form, Kaysville has chosen to put the council at the head of the co-op. While they do not run each department and enterprise entity, their job is to review the big picture to make sure that the city is using funds wisely and moving in the right direction. The city council is directly elected by the people and are accountable to the people living within the city.
Government within the United States is not and should not be a for-profit entity. Those who work or serve within the city are commissioned to a stewardship over providing the needs of city co-op at the most reasonable price. Through this lens the everyday happenings can be understood and citizens can be a part of deciding which services warrant a contribution into the taxes pot and which ones would be better handled on an individual basis.