Budget input should continue

Vernon cuts budget input off at three sessions, maybe rushing into things

Public consultation ultimately has to come to an end, but the City of Vernon may be rushing things.

Council decided Tuesday that three sessions in January were sufficient for residents to provide feedback on the proposed 2013 budget and an increase in property taxes.

But there are some important factors to consider.

First off, the three sessions were held on weekday mornings when many people, and particularly those who work, can’t get to city hall for a meeting.

The other critical aspect is the content of the budget has changed significantly since those three meetings. On Tuesday alone, $139,000 was removed from the document by tapping into reserves. That took the tax increase from 4.7 to 3.9 per cent or $45 for the average home.

Should council’s consideration of the budget not be based on the realities facing residents now and not a proposal from weeks ago?

Some council members are hung up on the fact that few residents attend budget input meetings and preparing information that goes ignored is an inefficient use of staff resources.

There is a point to that logic as hand-outs and charts cost money to produce. But if elected officials don’t provide opportunities for citizens to take an active role in the process, then there is always going to be a lack of input.

And being open and transparent  shouldn’t be influenced by one resident showing up or a crowded council chamber. The budget directly impacts the residents of the community — it is their document.

With provincial law not requiring the city’s budget to be finalized until May, there is still is considerable time for the city to hear from residents and iron out financial details.

After all, developing a budget isn’t a race.