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