Time is short to give input into the 2012 budget and five-year-plan

Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
December 15th, 2011

 ‘Tis the season to wrangle over the municipal budget, so if you have an opinion about how the city should spend taxpayer money, we (and the city) want to hear about it now!

The timeframe for your opinion to be heard is very short. On Monday evening, the committee-of-the-whole — absent new councillors Cary Fisher and Jody Blomme — passed a recommendation setting Jan. 23 for the first three readings of the annual budget and five-year-plan bylaw, and Jan. 30 as the deadline to adopt the bylaws.

Moore asked, “What is the urgency to get the 2012-2016 financial plan? We have one that’s working great.” Moore would have preferred no deadline to ensure adequate time for the public and council to “set strategy” and plot a course for the next year and five years.

“I’m not sure we’re doing the best thing for our community,” Moore said.

Mayor Greg Granstrom and CAO Victor Kumar were hotly against this point of view, with Kumar arguing, “We are not a complicated organization—most of these are operational issues. This is the basic template of how things work.”

Spearn agreed that council should retain “the ability that if something totally different comes out of the strategic planning, then we have to build it into the financial plan,” but felt the tight schedule did not exclude this possibility.

The mayor conceded, “If it becomes onerous, we delay it. We garner information as we go along.”

If you were quick to our newsstand, you can still catch this evening’s public meeting on the 2012-2016 financial plan at 7 p.m. at City Hall for an opportunity to watch city staff’s presentation and to ask questions about the plan.

Failing that, residents can fill out a recently revised “service level survey,” intended to gauge satisfaction (or lack thereof) with city services. Council was not happy with the original version that asked for responses on what Coun. Kathy Moore and Coun. Jill Spearn called a “vague and ambiguous” scale of “below average, average, fair, good, and very good.”

Coun. Tim Thatcher suggested a system of “decrease service, maintain service, or increase service,” to make the intent of the survey more clear. The new form was emailed to residents yesterday and can be filled out here.

And, of course, we are always excited to entertain people’s ideas and opinions about the city’s priorities and direction: please comment below.

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