District of Squamish municipal tax talks have gone cyber in an effort to lure public input.
For the first time, Squamish residents can Tweet, Facebook and email their comments and questions on the municipal budget process directly to council's chamber. It's a move pushed by officials to generate “better participation from the public throughout the process,” Coun. Patricia Heintzman said.
“It is really hard to get the community engaged on this sort of thing, unless their taxes go up significantly,” she said.
Over the past month, council have wrestled with a draft 2013 budget that included a 12.1 per cent property tax increase. As discussions continue, the figure's been whittled down to 8.8 per cent.
Historically, the public has always been able to add input at budget meetings, district spokesperson Christina Moore said. Opening the meetings up online allows people to watch the discussion live via the Internet and respond instantly from wherever they may be, she said.
Online comments and questions are read out at the end of the meeting, giving council an opportunity to supply a response when required.
“We are slowly getting some uptake,” Moore said, noting since the district launched its Twitter account — @Squamishtown — in late February it has 129 followers. “What we aim to do is provide enough opportunity that we can, to reach people where they are.”
Archived 2013 budget talks, documents and an online forum are available at www.squamish.ca/budget.
Dishing out the discussion on the Internet is a step in the right direction, Heintzman said. As with public comments on any topic, council always considers the information.
“This is the first year we have done this, so it is a bit of an experiment,” she said.