The public will have at least six different opportunities to address city council during budget planning for 2013.
The first half an hour of financial planning meetings scheduled for Dec. 3 and 4, Jan. 22, and Feb. 25, 26, and 27 will be reserved for public presentations and delegations. The meetings are all tentatively scheduled for 9 a.m.
“When important decisions are to be made or are contemplated during the financial planning process, it is necessary to gain a better understanding of the needs/concerns from the community,” said Laura Ciarniello, the city’s general manager of corporate services.
“Public consultation is important to validate council’s leadership and to allow citizens to express their views regarding the options council is debating.”
Last year, council was inundated with presentations over anger generated by a 13.6 per cent residential property tax increase.
At a meeting in mid-April, 26 people came to the council chambers to voice their opinions, and about 90 members of the public overflowed the gallery to witness the meeting.
Most urged council to go back to the drawing board and reconsider the tax rate, while just one woman spoke in favour of the tax hike in order to maintain city service levels.
The public forums also brought some unforgettable characters out the woodwork, most notably pensioner Doug Robson who two years ago brought a gold-plated shovel and a can of tuna to illustrate his point.
“No perks, no frills,” said Robson as he held up a plain old, steel shovel next to his golden shovel. “I cannot handle a tax increase or I’m going to have to eat cat food.”
Last year Robson made a splash when he compared councillors to the eliminated penny.
“Last Thursday the federal budget was brought in that did not increase my taxes and eliminated the penny,” Robson said at the time. “I’m here today to demand, not ask, for the resignation of four bad pennies we have here on council.”
Financial planning this year is expected to open with a debate around the city’s base budget, then move into the capital budget in January and end in February with the formation of service and tax levels.