Council is in the midst of budget discussions. We have had a great deal of reports and information that clearly outlines our infrastructure deficit. The first priority for any municipality is to provide water, sewer and solid waste management to its residents. There is significant catching up to do with these utilities. These projects have been identified and a financial plan to address them with scheduled utility rate increases to fund the work required. Although it has been scheduled, it still requires that each year Council recognize the value of the plan and continue to authorize utility rates that are fair, but will finance the work required.
Whereas the utilities are clearly identified, the area of general government is much more challenging to establish priorities. This is the area where we have competing interests and the concept moves beyond infrastructure and includes the liveability of our community. These competing interests are often difficult to quantify. Existing services and facilities are constantly demanding more money. Examples of this are the increase in policing costs, dike upgrades, and items like the possible failure of the ice rink floor. On top of the ever increasing cost of existing services is the perpetual demand to finance additional service levels. Examples of these would include increased funding for transit, trails, bike lanes, parks, and funding community groups and organizations.
You have elected your council to provide good governance for our community and we are diligently debating the budget to ensure we are doing exactly that. We do, however, require your input. In the past, council worked through the budget with staff, and once that exercise was completed it was taken to a town hall meeting for public input. The flaw with that approach was that public involvement was after the fact, and perhaps as a result of the process, the turnout at these meetings was poor. This year, we have invited the public to attend every council budget meeting and provide input each step along the way. All these meetings are recorded by Shaw, are streamed live and can be watched later on the web site. We have established updated budget information on our web site with the opportunity for feedback. The District Facebook page, as well as Twitter are available for your comments. Emails and letters are welcome. So far this year with all these additions, we are still receiving very little feedback. We are now approaching the final stages of this process and I would encourage everyone to use whichever means suites you best to provide us with your ideas and suggestions for this year's budget.