More in­put is al­ways the better choice

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - OPINION - — Hugo Ro­drigues

Corn­wall city coun­cil should show its tax­pay­ers some love – please seek our opin­ion in as many ways pos­si­ble when you pro­pose to cut pro­grams or ser­vices from the bud­get.

Coun­cil has given it­self the task of cut­ting $2.5 mil­lion in on­go­ing ex­penses from the bud­get, in or­der to reach a more-palat­able in­crease for the so-called av­er­age res­i­den­tial tax bill.

There’ve been small at­tempts at get­ting to the meat of the mat­ter, but the bud­get com­mit­tee meet­ings that lie ahead are where any blood­let­ting will be pre­sented, de­bated and voted on. What­ever rec­om­men­da­tions for cuts sur­vive the light of day at bud­get com­mit­tee meet­ings should ab­so­lutely be shopped out to ratepay­ers be­fore coun­cil, at a coun­cil meet­ing, adopts the 2018 bud­get.

I’m in ab­so­lute agree­ment with those coun­cil­lors who stood firm in their be­lief last week that once a list of cuts has been iden­ti­fied, there should be more pub­lic in­put.

Some coun­cil­lors point to the on­line sur­vey Corn­wall did in 2017 ask­ing peo­ple a myr­iad of ques­tions on what they sup­port pay­ing for and don’t, along with sug­ges­tions on how the city should man­age tax­pay­ers’ dol­lars. They’ve said that sur­vey, plus any in­di­vid­ual con­tact they make with con­stituents, should be enough.

Aside the fact the 503 re­sponses do not in any way con­sti­tute a sta­tis­ti­cally valid sur­vey, the re­spon­dents weren’t asked spe­cific ques­tions. While the en­su­ing re­port is cer­tain- ly en­light­en­ing, on bal­ance there’s no con­sen­sus opin­ion emerg­ing from the re­sults.

I didn’t read any­thing in the re­sults that screamed, in any­thing near uni­son, for Corn­wall to spend less in any spe­cific area. There were cer­tainly calls for de­creased spend­ing in re­sponse to ev­ery ques­tion, but each ques­tion also elicited sup­port­ive calls to main­tain and/or in­crease spend­ing.

It sup­ports a run­ning the­ory peo­ple will sup­port those pro­grams and ser­vices they take ad­van­tage of, and care lit­tle for the ones they don’t per­son­ally use.

Cut­ting $2.5 mil­lion in on­go­ing ex­penses from the city’s op­er­at­ing bud­get will hurt some of these pro­grams and ser­vices. Once it can iden­tify op­tions for those $2.5 mil­lion in cuts, coun­cil should con­tinue to con­sult its ratepay­ers on those pro­pos­als.

An­other on­line sur­vey would do. As would a few pub­lic in­put meet­ings, sched­uled at a va­ri­ety of times since peo­ple work at all hours of the day— not just when coun­cil usu­ally meets. A hand­ful of peo­ple an­gry about a pro­posed cut may show sup­port – or lack thereof – for the ser­vice.

You don’t know the an­swer to a ques­tion you don’t ask.

Coun­cil sat on the draft bud­get for a month be­fore it even sched­uled its first meet­ing. It can cer­tainly af­ford the time to give peo­ple an­other chance to speak out on ac­tual bud­get pro­pos­als in­stead of hy­po­thet­i­cals.

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