With a background in accounting, Cena Conteh is used to budgeting her personal finances.
But when it comes to allocating money from the city’s finances during a mock budget session, Conteh admits the experience was a little unnerving, even though the exercise was just for fun as part of week six of Lynnwood University.
Lynnwood City Finance Director Lorenzo Hines had students in the class get up and sit in the seats where the City Council does its work. He then presented a budget that required the City Council (Lynnwood University students) to make some tough choices in terms of cuts.
Hines didn’t make it easy as he had other students assume the role of the union representative from the police, a proponent of the parks and recreation department and other interested parties.
The students engaged in a lively debate on what programs/departments they needed to cut in order to balance the budget.
“(The budget) affects so many people,” Conteh said. “When you’re doing your personal finances you can pull from here and here. You can’t do that in city government. I do have an accounting background, so I know when certain things are allocated, you can’t move it anywhere else. You really have to think in the future and think of what areas it’s going to affect. That was kind of scary, sitting up there.”
The students eventually voted and were able to come to a consensus on the budget. Hines concluded the exercise by urging the students to become actively engaged in their city.
“I like how he just said they want to get social media to get the information out to the people and to get them in here,” Conteh said, “So that (the City Council) can make those decisions with the input from the community.”
Earlier in the evening, Mayor Don Gough stopped by to talk about his role in the city government.
What Conteh especially liked about this session of Lynnwood University was becoming comfortable with city officials.
“It was good for us to be in the presence of the Mayor,” Conteh said. “He was laughing and joking and making us laugh … he seemed very approachable.”
Conteh also enjoyed hearing Hines speak.
“I think it’s important us being in Lynnwood University, we are getting to see these department heads and we realize they are approachable,” Conteh said. “They’re open for questions.”
Lynnwood Today is following Cena and Peter Conteh as they learn more about their city government in Lynnwood University.