Castlegar unveils new budget process in series of public meetings

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
January 24th, 2019

Castlegar mayor and council will be rolling out a new budget presentation paradigm in a series of three public meetings slated for next week and the week after.

In recent years prior, the city has held most discussion and staff presentations in camera, with a public open house presenting the draft budget in its entirety. At that point they would accept questions, complaints, suggestions and other feedback during the open house, by telephone, online or via conventional mail. Once that information was processed and the draft budget altered accordingly, a final budget would be presented for council’s rejection or adoption.

This year, three meetings will break out specific aspects of the budget in the hope of increasing transparency and public understanding, according to city manager Chris Barlow.

“(The change is) so everybody can understand the whys and hows of the decision-making,” Barlow said. “We’re bringing the staff presentations to an open meeting so the public can see who they are, what they do, the department’s five-year plan, and the financial implications.”

He said the first meeting, on Jan. 30, will be predominantly focussed on operational budgeting.

“Council can ask questions and make any requests regarding operations, and there will be a question period for the public as well.”

The second meeting on Jan. 31 will, he said, be focussed on capital, meaning new projects, and the cost implications of those.

“Once again, it will provide an opportunity for council to ask questions and put forward any projects they’d like considered for the final budget,” Barlow said, adding there will also be a public question period at this meeting.

The third meeting is slated for Feb. 4, and will see an amalgamation of all the operational and capital budgeting into a coherent whole, giving council and the public the total financial picture and how it all will impact tax rates.

“It’s a whole new shift in how we approach taxation,” Barlow said. “Breaking out the various priority areas: operations, capital, and infrastructure renewal. In this, infrastructure renewal is funded as a priority on its own, rather than competing with other priorities like, for example, a new staff position.”

He said the shift is all part of a long-term strategic plan that guides city decision-making.

“We’re very proud of the direction we’re going and how much we’re able to achieve with the budget and staffing levels we have,” he said. “We feel this (approach) breeds more public trust in the city and in the system.

The meetings are to be held at the Community Forum on Jan. 30 and Jan. 31 beginning at 5:30 p.m. A specific time has not yet been set for the Feb. 4 meeting.

Categories: Politics