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Stick it here, Detroit

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Want to tell the city of Detroit how to spend its money? Make that your money, really, as a taxpayer.

The annual "survey of citizen city service priorities" is online and waiting for you at www.ci.detroit.mi.us. By filling it out, you can tell the city how to prioritize services and programs — including public health, public safety, mass transportation, and recreation and culture.

"This is our opportunity to get feedback from citizens in an educated way," says Pam Scales, city budget director.

Started six years ago, the surveys also are distributed at public budget hearings. Sometimes students have participated, but staffing shortages have limited the number of high schools the city can work with in the last few years, Scales says.

Overall responses have fallen too. The city collected about 900 surveys in 2002 but that dwindled to 537 last year. Scales says her office's goal is 1,000 responses this year.

"When people are answering, I think we get some pretty good responses," she says.

Not surprisingly, public service always tops the list of what the public is concerned about but year-to-year comparisons about citizens' ideas are difficult as the survey has changed each year.

The survey also allows you to divide a representative $10 within a city department, replicating the tough budget choices of how to fund residential street lighting versus main street lighting versus steam or electricity for building versus electric power production within the Public Lighting area, for example.

"If they give 60 percent to one program, it's meant to show the intensity of the effort," says Janet Anderson, a budget manager.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or NewsHits@metrotimes.com

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