Have your say on city budget
If you’ve ever wanted to see what a near empty room at the Interior Savings Centre looks like, go to a city budget public-consultation meeting.
There are usually only about a dozen or so people who show up to lend their voice to the process.
City officials have tried nearly everything to get a better turnout — even offering cookies and snacks.
But after a turbulent election year, in which many residents expressed concern over a lack of consultation within the city, council is once again tweaking the annual consultation process.
The city will hold three evening public meetings at the ISC (Feb. 7, 21 and March 6).
But instead of having the traditional open mic format, the meetings will include roundtables where one councillor will sit at a table and join the public.
After each department director reviews their particular budget, the meeting is opened to questions.
Mayor Peter Milobar, who came up with the plan, said the new format is a way to address people who might feel intimidated asking a question in front of a broader audience.
“We’ll see if this is well received or not, only time will tell,” he said, adding the schedule won’t put an extra strain on staff resources.
“It’s really how do we try to tweak things a bit without compromising the overall timeframes and integrity of the process.”
In the past, the city has held just one meeting — usually in February — to get input from residents.
Though turnouts to such meetings are notoriously low, Milobar said attendance isn’t a worry.
He said the number of people who show may not be as important as the calibre of the content that comes from the meetings.
Council will begin the heavy lifting in the coming weeks, tackling the list of supplementary budget items.
Preliminary budget estimates have residents looking at a 4.7 per cent tax increase in 2012.
That would work out to an additional $75 for the owner of an average-assessed home in Kamloops.
The 4.7 per cent is expected to make up for a $3.9-million shortfall in the city’s general fund, which has grown, in part, from contract obligations.
However, the mayor has said he expects the tax hike to be whittled down to the range of two to 2.5 per cent.