Do you think Osceola County government spends too much money? Think you can find ways to cut spending in the upcoming budget?

Residents may soon get a chance to put money where their mouth is – so to speak – by joining a new citizens’ budget committee.

In the first commission meeting following a failed May 21 sales tax proposal meant to generate money to fix Osceola County’s transportation issues, elected officials did not directly address how gridlock and other problems will be solved moving forward.

However, County Commissioner Fred Hawkins Jr. suggested giving concerned residents a chance to better use the county money in the upcoming budget process by creating a new committee.  

“There’s people now saying cut your budget and find the money there for your needs and what you want,” he said. “I think this is a good way to start.”

Hawkins envisions a five to seven-member board of residents who can question and critique the fiscal year 2020 budget as it’s being developed this summer. Each county commissioner would appoint one resident, and the chair of each political party would also have a seat at the table.  The citizen group would then bring budget recommendations back to county commissioners for review.

The county adopts its new fiscal year budget Oct. 1, with staff holding regular meetings throughout the summer to determine spending priorities and cuts.

Hawkins noted a historical lack of interest from citizens during this process.

“I think I can count on both hands the number of people who have shown up in the last five years,” he said.

Fellow board members supported the idea. Commissioner Brandon Arrington proposed a citizens’ transportation task force to explore options on how to fix traffic and make infrastructure upgrades.

“There’s unfortunately a disconnect in the reality of what we as local government can control,” Arrington said. “So, I think it’s a great idea.”

County Manager Don Fisher asked Hawkins to refine his idea so the process can begin.   

“These things take form in a variety of different ways, anything from 50,000-foot to line-by-line item review,” Fisher said.

Commissioner Viviana Janer said Hawkins should work with Fisher to develop a concrete structure for the committee.

Hawkins said he would do so. He also suggested the county look at an audit committee set up by the school board a couple years ago for ideas.

Earlier at Monday’s meeting, some residents spoke out against the sales tax proposal that failed two weeks ago and bucked at the notion of any higher taxes ever.

“I don’t think we have a revenue problem, I think we have a spending problem,” said Wayne Liebnitzky, a current Republican county commission candidate.