I have been an advocate for a more public input to the municipal budget process for years.
This year, the Town of Ladysmith has created opportunities for public to have their input. These forms at council meetings are where individuals can express their concerns or their support on how their money is being spent.
This year, the preliminary budget indicates a possible 5.39-per-cent increase over last year’s municipal tax rate. This would be in addition to municipally-imposed taxes that have increased more than 60 per cent in a five-year period.
Taxpayers understand that we have to pay taxes in order to pay for the services we receive from the Town, such as water and sewer. It is the non-essentials that are “nice to have or do” that need to be looked at.
The trolley is a good example. Do we the taxpayer think that we are getting good values for the 2.5- to three-per-cent tax increase needed to support an air-polluting “mostly empty” bus? Are we paying exorbitant wages to our non-unionized staff? Do we need a paved 300-metre bicycle path at $200-plus per metre in an area that is seldom used by cyclists and is already in an area that is free of any car traffic, when we still have areas of town that are in need of sidewalks? (We have been told that “it won’t cost us any money because it is being paid for by provincial and federal grants.” Where do you think that grant money comes from? It is still our tax dollars.)
I am disappointed that the public has failed to take advantage of the opportunity that the Town has presented the public to express their views on the short- and long-term finical planning for the Town.
To find out more on how council is planning to spend and raise funds for the next five years, you can review this year’s budget and five-year plan on the Town’s website or attend the next council meeting at City Hall.
One of the problems with our municipal form of government is that we have no official opposition. We have to rely on individual councilors to ask questions and investigate what priorities we the citizens of the community want.
We need to know that our dollars are being spent on necessities first and that any “nice-to-have” items are what the public really wants.
We need to ensure that council dose not become or is seen to be a group of bobblehead dolls that will agree to any thing that staff puts before them. Council needs to know your feelings; they need to know your ideas. They need to know that you are concerned about how your tax dollars are being spent. If you want to let them know your thoughts, you can e-mail them at City Hall or you can leave a phone message for any of them at City Hall.
If you don’t express your concerns about or your support for town projects, then you have to accept whatever they decide they feel is best for you.
Robert (Rob) Johnson