It’s in all our in­ter­ests to take the bud­get sur­vey

Seaway News - - EDITORIAL & OPINIONS - Ed Allard

You have prob­a­bly read or heard about the 2014 bud­get sur­vey the city is pro­mot­ing. It be­gan with city coun­cil ask­ing for some way to en­gage the com­mu­nity in the bud­get process. Rather than get­ting us to go out to town hall meet­ings on the sub­ject, it’s a lot eas­ier to have the “town hall” come di­rectly to us.

I like it and I think that as many home­own­ers as pos­si­ble should make an ef­fort to par­tic­i­pate in the sur­vey. The city hopes to re­ceive some 500 sub­mis­sions by the end date, which is De­cem­ber 16th. Per­son­ally, I think that is far too low for a city pop­u­la­tion of some 35,000 adults and 20,000 res­i­dences.

Think about it. Do you want the views of only 500 res­i­dents to be the bench­mark for what the rest of us think the city’s spend­ing pri­or­i­ties should be? If, for ex­am­ple, 300 of those 500 want to sub­stan­tially in­crease spend­ing on land­scap­ing ser­vices, should coun­cil take that as an in­di­ca­tion of what the ma­jor­ity re­ally thinks?

You might think they’ll do what they want any­way, but it’s like a lot­tery: if you don’t play, it’s guar­an­teed that you won’t win. At the very least, the sur­vey re­sults will have some in­flu­ence on coun­cil­lors’ think­ing – in my ex­pe­ri­ence they are all look­ing for con­struc­tive feed­back.

This is our money they are spend­ing and we have very few op­por­tu­ni­ties to weigh in on how it should be spent. The Com­mu­nity Ac­tion Group, the Cham­ber of Com­merce and other in­ter­est groups are reg­u­larly lob­by­ing the city about their par­tic­u­lar pri­or­i­ties. This sur­vey pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity for each of us to do the same.

It is widely be­lieved that our prop­erty taxes are too high for the ser­vices we re­ceive. Well, now you can tell the city just where you think they are spend­ing too much or too lit­tle. You can spec­ify whether fund­ing for a par­tic­u­lar ser­vice should be in­creased, de­creased or re­main the same. A change in fund­ing will very likely mean a change in the level of ser­vice and you are given some space to ex­plain just what changes you would like to see, if you wish to do that.

It’s a use­ful tool that tells us just where our tax dol­lar is go­ing and what ser­vices we are re­ceiv­ing for it. I ex­pect many peo­ple will be sur­prised at just how much of our tax dol­lar goes to po­lice ser­vices, to tran­sit, or to by­law en­force­ment for ex­am­ple. It’s much eas­ier to visu­al­ize the money as a pro­por­tion of our per­sonal tax than as a global fig­ure like $20 mil­lion. And our selec­tions will show just what the im­pact could be on our per­sonal tax bill.

Un­til last week, the sur­vey was only avail­able on the city’s web­site: www.corn­wall. ca, which could make it in­ac­ces­si­ble for some res­i­dents. But it’s now also avail­able in pa­per for­mat, which can be picked up from and de­liv­ered to a num­ber of city out­lets, in­clud­ing city hall, the li­brary, the Civic Com­plex, the Ben­son Cen­tre and the tran­sit of­fice.

The sur­vey has been kept short and is very easy to fol­low. On av­er­age, it’s tak­ing less than 15 min­utes to com­plete on the web­site, which is prob­a­bly about the time it takes to drink a cup of cof­fee. As of this writ­ing ( Mon­day), about 1,800 of us have vis­ited the web page to see what it looks like and 220 have made the ef­fort to com­plete and sub­mit the sur­vey. That last num­ber re­ally needs to in­crease. It is in our best in­ter­ests.

And that’s the way I see it.

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