October 09, 2013 - 12:54 PM
KAMLOOPS – To give the public and council ample time and convenience to discuss the city budget, public review meetings will be held earlier this year, during the day and on the North Shore.
Based on feedback from residents, businesses and council, staff suggested earlier dates for the meetings this time around so the public can be involved during the development stage of the 2014-2018 five year financial plan.
“90 per cent of people who speak are asking for more service... but also want taxes to stay the same and not go up,” Coun. Tina Lange said in opening the discussion on the proposed meeting schedule.” When you say 'what do you want cut?' They say 'oh, you can cut something out there.'”
Finance Director Sally Edwards assured Lange and the rest of council that staff is already working on an outline of services and what possible cutbacks could look like to help accommodate other suggestions.
Coun. Marg Spina also wanted to see a breakdown of asset management for the meetings so the public could look at maintenance schedules and see what the city has to plan for to ensure city infrastructure is taken care of. Chief Administrative Officer David Trawin said that too is something staff is already looking at with the hopes of being able to have a schedule in place.
Two meetings will be held this fall, one Oct. 29 from 7-10 p.m. at Interior Savings Centre Parkside Lounge and the other Nov. 4 from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at McArthur Island Sports Centre Lounge. The fall meetings will discuss city service levels and seek input on new requests or suggested changes. This input will then be presented to council in November prior to the plan being introduced in December.
At this point the hope is to send out capital projects to tender early to help get the best rate possible as well as set the water, sewer and garbage rates for January 2014.
At the end of February a third public consultation meeting will be held at the Parkside Lounge following the introduction of the additional operating and capital requests for 2014 to council at a separate budget meeting. Council will again look at the budget a month later and on Apr. 8 will finalize the tax rate for 2014.
At this point it is unknown if the earlier meetings will be streamed online but it is expected that online and Twitter comments will be monitored and addressed during the sessions as they were this past year.
While some concern was raised over holding only a single public meeting in the new year to go over the additional operating and capital costs Mayor Peter Milobar pointed out the public budget meetings used to be only a single two-hour session. He didn't want to see a fourth date added since staff, council and the public are often feeling worn out by the end of the third three-hour session. While the sessions can be tiring Trawin said staff actually prefers the format and being able to have actual discussions about the individual components.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013