Sunday, February 18, 2007

City Budget Off and Running

The Group of Seven smile at me from page eleven of Friday's Burlington Post. Cam and the Happy Gang announce the beginning of "Budget 07 - Have your Say."

The show hits the road this week with stops at the Burlington Art Centre (Feb 19), Appleby Ice Centre (Feb 22), Notre Dame High School (Feb 28) and Paletta Mansion (March 1).

OK, so its not a Beatles reunion tour - but it matters. According to the City's website:

"Public participation in the process is deemed essential because a municipal budget is more than numbers or setting tax rates. It is a policy and planning document that outlines the city’s priorities and where we are heading. It’s a tool to make Burlington a better place to live."

You can send the City your three budget priorities. You can also request a response from the mayor, a city councillor or various staff.

While public input is valued; it is not easy to achieve. Understanding a municipal budget is about as complex a task as putting together a Rubik's cube while blindfolded. Those who desire to seriously involve themselves in this process have both my thanks and my sympathies.

I'll try to keep on top of it.


Speaking of priorities. Here are mine:

First, lets maintain the level of services we have now. Start the discussion there. Keeping taxes down is important too but the debate has to be around the services we pay for.

Second, let's see what our city can do to improve our environment. There has been a big move in public attitudes on this in the last year. We have to communicate this to the decision makers.

And third - a pet peeve of mine - staff remuneration. After eight and a half years away from the municipal scene I returned to find many staff making significantly more than they earned in 1997. We need decent salaries to maintain and attract good staff. But the city must also reflect what goes on in the real world.

Two Consultations?

An interesting sub-plot to the budget consultation is an apparent attempt by the mayor to run his own separate consultation. A motion put forward by his worship sought permission for a kind of pre-consultation by Mayor Cam with selected groups. The motion lost.It will be interesting to see how this plays out.