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Coalhurst approves budget consultation plan

Posted on September 14, 2023 by Sunny South News

By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News

A plan to gain public feedback on upcoming budgets has been approved by Coalhurst town council.

During their regular Sept. 5 meeting, Coalhurst town council discussed a consultation plan for the upcoming budget.

As budget deliberations are soon to begin, administration proposed the following as a consultation plan for the 2024 Budget: first, administration puts out a survey where residents indicate how they would like levels of service to be impacted for the varying departments; second, the town holds an Open House for residents to attend and provide input directly with members of council; and that the results of the survey engagement be presented during a council meeting.

“At this stage, it’s more of gaining an idea of where they’ll like to see the service levels, rather than a specific item,” said Mike Passey, director of corporate service for the town. “When you think of X,Y, Z, this gives you an idea of… where they’ll want to see the town go and provide funding for.”

In addition to being available online, the survey would also be available at the open house and in paper form, should some residents prefer those options. The open house would also allow those who do not wish to fill out a survey to share their thoughts on the budget.

Funding for this endeavour could potentially be provided through the MSI Operating Grant for this year, and if it should become an ongoing consultation tool, the funding source would change to general taxation. The cost of putting out the survey would also be dependent on the form it ultimately takes, although for this year, the town can utilize tools and resources already at their disposal. During their August meeting, council had reviewed potential survey options.

When asked about whether it would be too tight a timeline to roll out for this year’s budget discussions, Passey said “it depends”.

“If we go the route of a more interim budget, it would allow us to extend that consultation period out and then have those final decisions made once we finalized that in the spring,” said Passey. “It takes a couple of weeks to get it started, to get the information ready for it and then it needs to run it for whatever time we want it to run for, a week, two weeks, and… we do produce a report at the end, which can take a week to do so. It is a five-week total engagement process, because this is the first time using those services.”

“If we’re not concerned about having a completely finalized budget by December 31, and then are okay with doing an interim version and then a finalized version, then the timeline is much more available.”

Municipal budgets for 2024 won’t be officially passed until the spring of 2024, as that is when they get their mill rates from the province. Interim budgets will need to be approved before the start of the year for the municipality to keep operating until then, but just how finalized they are depends on the municipality’s preference.

Council passed a motion to approve the budget consultation plan as presented.

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