Finance committee recommends using Citizen Budget for public survey

Online tool provides taxpayers with opportunities to delve into city’s financial plans

City of Powell River taxpayers will have an opportunity to dig into the city’s upcoming budget development again this year via an online simulator.

At its October 26 meeting, the city’s finance committee recommended to council that the city use Citizen Budget, the same online budget simulator and survey tool it used last year, to help gather the public’s thoughts on items in the 2018 budget. City chief financial officer Kathleen Day told council she wants to see the online tool, which gives the public an opportunity to balance the city’s budget with their own priorities, available online by November 3.

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"A big part of this tool is the education for the public it provides, said Day. "We want the input as well, but if people are looking at the information, it's a plus."

Councillor and chair of the finance committee Russell Brewer said after the meeting that public participation in the budget process is critical.

"It helps us decide what's important and what we need to focus on,” said Brewer. “It will help inform them on what services we provide.”

Last year the online tool received more than 450 visits with 100 participants taking a few minutes to complete the survey. At the meeting, mayor Dave Formosa told the committee that while 100 responses does not seem like a lot, the city has hosted open-house information sessions where as few as 15 or 20 people attend.

Day said Citizen Budget will give the public a better understanding of challenges elected officials face at budget time.

“It's not an easy spot to be in,” she said.

Day added that at this point, the 2018 budget assumes a two per cent cost-of-living increase in residential and business tax rates.

Brewer said that while he does not expect everyone to sit through four-hour, budget-deliberation meetings, he does encourage the public to participate with Citizen Budget, look at the draft operating and capital budgets when they are posted to the city’s website and send comments to council.

Day said she expects the upcoming November 23 finance committee meeting to include a presentation on proposed city department operating budgets and that members of the public will have an opportunity to provide their thoughts on elements of the city’s draft operating budget.

At a special finance committee meeting planned for December 1, the committee will have another opportunity to discuss department operations and then look at capital-budget plans. That meeting will include a presentation of Citizen Budget survey results and opportunities for members of the public to provide their thoughts.

Day said she anticipates the city’s updated draft operating and capital budget to be posted to the city’s website by December 8.

For more information about Citizen Budget, go to citizenbudget.com.

Copyright © 2017 Powell River Peak

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