For the first time ever, the Town of Snow Lake held a pre-budget public consultation. In other words a meeting on the town budget that takes place before numbers are crunched and totals are set in stone. A meeting that seeks public input on what interested ratepayers want to see their hard earned tax money spent on, rather than a hearing that tells them where it is all going to go.
Being the first year it was held, most folks were no doubt unaware. Possibly, the time at which it was held had something to do with attendance (1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 20), or perhaps some have become indifferent or jaded and it was just conveniently overlooked.
"We were a little disappointed at the turnout," said Mayor Garry Zamzow of the trio who did show up. "Three people did come out and express some thoughts. But there seemed to be some confusion as to what the session was for."
Zamzow admitted it could have had something to do with holding it in the afternoon rather than the evening, but countered that with the number of seniors in Snow Lake and four-and-four shifts, that this isn't the factor it was in the past. "We could consider holding an evening session next year," he added.
CAO Jeff Precourt said that he thought the open house was a worthwhile endeavour and he hopes council decides to do it again. "It is a worthwhile process," said Precourt. "As far as the comments from those in attendance, it was the first time we've done it, so I think that there might have been a little misunderstanding of the intent." One of the people who showed up at the Open House thought it was the hearing itself and the only proper suggestion to arise came by way of a phone call to the town office after the event had concluded. It was a suggestion that the town offer a place to dispose of used oil. "That is the sort of information that we wanted to hear," said Precourt of the suggestion.
The open house wasn't the only change relative to how things are done within the budget process. With council's budget deliberations currently in full swing, Zamzow says that they acted upon a suggestion from their CAO that they start on one area of the document and address everything involved before moving on to another. "I found being a part of the budget process here last year, we were jumping around a lot," Precourt observed. "We would be doing revenue with grant-in-lieu and custom work, then we were over here doing utility expenses in the general. It was confusing. So this year, we figured we would be a little more organized and we are focusing on the revenue first. We will get the grant in lieu, custom work, user fees, dog licences, and all the other fees we have out of the way first, so half way through the year we aren't saying, 'Oh, ya, we forgot to review trailer court fees.' Let's do it all at once.