Council tries up close, personal
For most residents, it’s not easy sitting through an evening of budget talks.
But, that’s what council is asking people to do today (Feb. 28), as the first of three public consultation meetings on the 2012 budget get underway.
The meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in the Parkside Lounge at Interior Savings Centre, will focus on the parks, recreation and culture department.
The last few years of budget meetings have only brought out sparse crowds.
That prompted KTW to ask councillors why they believe it’s important for residents to come out and provide their input on the document.
Nancy Bepple said the budget has a direct impact on what services the city provides.
“If there’s something they’re [residents] really passionate about, or if there is a service they don’t want, they could have an impact on how the city operates,” she said.
Donovan Cavers said the budget is the most important document that details where resources are allocated in the coming year and suggested having input is one of the biggest ways to influence the direction of the city.
Ken Christian contends the system of government is a participatory democracy and this is the way for residents to participate.
Tina Lange argued if people don’t attend, they can’t complain.
Nelly Dever suggested it’s better for council to receive input from the public prior to making decisions, rather than dealing with reactive residents once those decisions are made.
Arjun Singh made a plea for residents to attend so council can “use their wisdom” to make better decisions relating to the budget.
Speaking on the specific focus of the evening, Mayor Peter Milobar said the parks and recreation department tends to include the “nice-to-do things” in the budget, adding it’s important council hear from the public as to the service levels they are expecting from the department.
He suggested the meeting is also an opportunity for council to see what residents would like improved and what items in the budget could held back.
Instead of having the traditional open-mic format, the meetings will include roundtables where one councillor will sit at a table and interact with the public.
After each department director reviews their particular budget, the meeting is opened to questions.
The preliminary budget estimate shows a 5.7 per cent property-tax increase for this year, including an additional 1.3 per cent in supplementary items.
That number is to make up for a $4.7-million budget shortfall.
The 5.7 per cent increase would be equal to an extra $92 being paid by owners of an average-assessed home in Kamloops, with a value of $344,000.
The city has to pay an extra $1.6 million for employee salaries and benefits, $848,982 for RCMP-contract increases, $651,000 for transit-contract increases and $432,000 for the new firehall in Aberdeen.
Supplemental capital projects on the list of the parks and recreation department include $80,000 each to replace the roof and install new bathrooms at the McArthur Island Youth Centre, another $150,000 for stair aids at ISC and $35,000 for a public produce-demonstration garden.
The subject of the next budget meeting on March 6 will be
the public works and sustainability department, with the final meeting on March 13 focusing on development and engineering services.