Public sessions to look at the City’s 2014 budget are starting earlier than ever.
The first public input meeting is slated for Oct. 29 at the Interior Savings Centre followed by a Nov. 4 session at the McArthur Island Sports Centre.
Usually council has held its public meetings in February or March. But the public has asked to have more say in the budget at earlier stages, so the input was moved up, said City finance director Sally Edwards.
By Nov. 26, the public feedback would be documented and ready to go back to council for the core budget.
Supplemental budget items will still be up for discussion at another public meeting on Feb. 25 at the Interior Savings Centre. Council will hold a final budget meeting on March 25 before setting the tax rate on April 8.
Coun. Tina Lange said she was glad to see one of the public meetings was scheduled during daytime hours so business people would be able to attend. Often they are too tired after working long days to go to an evening session, she said.
Most of those who have attended meetings in the past have asked for more services for their neighbourhoods, but also stress they don’t want taxes to go up, she said.
Coun. Ken Christian it wasn’t just the public asking for early consultation, he was too.
“As I see it, we’re continuing with the opportunity we gave to the public last year but they can speak to issues related to the core budget.”
He wondered about a possible shift to an industrial tax rate change that could affect residential taxes. The four heavy industries in town — Tolko, Domtar, Lafarge and Arclin — are lobbying for a reduction in their tax load.
Mayor Peter Milobar said the foursome have been trying to arrange a meeting with City council. They have set a date of Oct. 22, which is before the first public consultation.
“They will be ahead of these meetings, then whatever direction council wants based on that will flow,” he said.
Coun. Donovan Cavers put forward an amendment to add a second post-New Year public session, but it was defeated.
Milobar pointed out the new schedule is already going to take up a lot of staff time.
Coun. Arjun Singh asked about having live streaming. Twitter and Facebook feeds are available for those who can’t get to the meetings.
City business and client services manager Tammy Robertson said there will be social media for the sessions, but she wasn’t sure about live streaming for the first ones.
They will be recorded and posted online for anyone to watch.
Coun. Pat Wallace said she was unaware the dates would be so early and has booked a holiday out of the country. She won’t be back in time for the first meetings.
Council unanimously accepted the schedule.
* Tuesday, Oct. 29, Interior Savings Centre Parkside Lounge, 7 to 10 p.m., public consultation
* Monday, Nov. 4, McArthur Island Sports Centre Lounge, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., public consultation
* Tuesday, Nov. 26, regular council meeting, public feedback goes back to council
* Tuesday, Dec. 10, council looks at setting water, sewer and garbage rates
* Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, 9 a.m. additional capital and operating items are reviewed
* Tuesday, Feb. 25, 7 to 10 p.m., public consultation on supplemental items at Interior Savings Centre
* Tuesday, March 25, 9 a.m. council makes final budget decisions.
* Tuesday, April 8, council sets the 2014 tax rate.