Town councillors Tara McFadden and Marni Fedeyko will be meeting with residents face-to-face on Sunday, Nov. 19 to garner their input and answer questions on the town's 2024 budget.
It's being held in the main foyer of the SLS Centre from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
"At this point, It's probably just the two of us and copies of the budget," says Councillor McFadden. "It's about making ourselves accessible to talk to people and field the questions as best as we can. Mostly, we'll be listening to make sure that we're on the right track in how we're interpreting people's priorities."
Town council wrapped up its first two days of deliberation this week, spending Nov. 14 discussing the operational budget and the next day on capital spending. On Nov. 23, council gets into the finer points and clarifications sought during initial discussions.
"What I do like about the process this year is we've had these two days and I feel that we're going to get into the actual deliberation part of it next week. So I'm hoping people will get a little time to get some traction and understand and we'll start to get better feedback."
Town administration relied heavily on its spring engagement with residents to establish the guiding principles for the budget. McFadden and Fedeyko believe that's not good enough.
"Of course, I've read those and taken those into consideration but here we are at the other end of the year, so we're looking at it as really important to hear from people what their priorities are, and how those priorities have changed," says McFadden. "Things change quickly in the world and we need to adapt as best as possible."
Some residents and organizations contact councillors directly to discuss their concerns. McFadden says she has heard from community groups that don't see their needs being reflected as much as they would like.
"I've had those groups reached out and had those conversations."
Councillor Fedeyko held a coffee chat with interested residents on Nov. 14. She said she heard frustration over the lack of financial details in the budget draft, and it's a concern she shares.
After two days of deliberation, her concerns remained the same.
"I need actual numbers and clear descriptions as to what one-third of the operating budget is supporting, section by section. I can’t cut or approve what I don’t know."
Brian Winter was one of the residents participating in Fedeyko's public engagement.
He spent $30 to print the budget, read it, and sent a list of 10 concerns, questions, and recommendations to all town councillors and senior town administrators.
He will be closely following deliberations in hopes of getting further answers, and perhaps hear some of his thoughts echoed.
He says the budget lacked clarity surrounding actual 2023 spending, and forecasted 2024 spending, particularly around contractual and general services. He also questions a number of the fees charged to small businesses, whom he believes the taxes they pay should cover some of those services.
He believes the book should have included an executive summary clearly outlining changes, hiring, and capital projects. He also asked specific questions about the Glenbow Dr. infrastructure project and paving of the popular pathway through the community.
When interviewed, only Drew Hyndman, executive director of Development and Infrastructure Services reached out to provide information.
"The biggest thing is public engagement," says Winter. "I'm disappointed that they didn't make room for a day or two days for public engagement on the budget."
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